I have special menus for the dinners that I like to cook during the holiday season. This post is one of them and in the weeks to come, I will share some of my other holiday menus.
What size tenderloin should you cook? I always figure a half-pound of boneless meat per person. If any of it is leftover, that is just fine but like a good Italian, we have to make sure we have enough food for everyone. For the recipe below, I used a 3 lb. beef tenderloin. I usually buy them when they are on sale and save them for special occasions. It is my favorite cut of beef. Recently, I bought 2 and cut each in half and froze each half separately. The cooking directions are the same no matter what size tenderloin you cook because the width of the meat determines the cooking time. Since a tenderloin is very lean, it benefits from having a sauce served with it.
3 lb beef tenderloin (size will depend on how many people you are serving)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots (3 medium)
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Spray a metal roasting pan with olive oil cooking spray.
I use a metal pan for this dish so that it can go on the top of the stove to make a sauce after the beef is finished roasting.
Tie the beef with kitchen string and place the roasting pan.
Coat with olive oil. Sprinkle coarse salt and cracked pepper evenly all over the meat. Add the mushroom caps to the pan.
Roast the beef for 30 minutes for medium-rare (25 minutes for rare and 35 minutes for medium).
Remove the pan from the oven, place the meat and mushrooms on a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Allow the beef to rest for 10 minutes.
To make the wine sauce:
Place the empty pan on the stove top over low heat.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan and add the shallots; cook about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Add wine; cook about 4 minutes until reduced slightly. Stir in the broth. Heat to boiling.
Reduce heat to medium-low; cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup.
Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, with wire. Pour into a serving bowl.
Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.
2 medium baking potatoes, cooked and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cups 00 (Italian) flour or all-purpose flour
Butter Sage Sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large fresh sage leaves, cut into slivers
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Dice the cooked potatoes and place them in an electric mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes. Add the salt and pepper.
Mix the egg and ricotta together in a small mixing bowl. Add to the potatoes in the mixer along with the flour.
Mix until thoroughly combined and the dough comes together.
Place the dough on a floured board and knead a few minutes until smooth. Divide in half. This recipe usually comes out to weigh about 2 lbs.
Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to cut the gnocchi.
Wrap the other half in plastic and place in a freezer zip-lock bag. Freeze the dough for another time. This dough freezes well.
Defrost overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.
To shape the gnocchi:
Divide the dough into golf ball sized pieces, and roll each piece into a log about the thickness of your thumb on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into 1 inch pieces.
Take a fork and place it against one side of each gnocchi to make a fork design on each and continue with the remaining pieces.
Place the prepared gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Place the butter in a large microwave glass mixing bowl and heat in the microwave until melted.
Carefully drop the gnocchi into salted boiling water and remove them with a wide spider or a slotted spoon immediately as they float to the surface.
Allow the water to drain back into the pot. Place the gnocchi in the bowl with the melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Add the cheese and sage. Mix carefully and serve.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the onion softens.
Add the cream cheese, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Cook over medium heat until the cream cheese is melted.
Whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Squeeze all the water from the defrosted spinach and add to the cheese sauce.
Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Serve immediately.
Pot Roast, the ultimate comfort food, when leftover, makes a delicious pot pie. Here is the link to my pot roast recipe. Chicken is a favorite with me, so I have lots of quick and easy ways to fix it. Take advantage of all the fall vegetables in season and add them to your recipes whenever you can. I tried to do that in the recipes below.
Beef Pot Pie
1 box of refrigerated (2) pie crusts, at room temperature
1 cup leftover pot roast gravy
1/2 cup leftover green beans, cut into one inch pieces or use frozen (defrosted)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup diced leftover pot roast
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture between two individual baking dishes.
Unroll the pastry on a cutting board.
Cut a circle from the center of the pastry sheet to cover one of the individual baking dishes with a one inch overhang.
Place the circle on the baking dish. Repeat with the second baking dish and pastry.
Use the leftover pastry for decorations on top of the beef pie or to make cinnamon sugar rolls.
Seal the pastry to the edges of the baking dishes and flute. Cut slits in several places in the crust to allow steam to escape.
Cover a sheet pan with foil and place the baking dishes on top.
Bake 15 minutes. Cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning; bake 15 to 30 minutes longer or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Chicken Cacciatore Over Spaghetti Squash
2 – 4 chicken cutlets (depending on how many servings you want), about 5 oz each
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the squash
1 spaghetti squash,about 2 lbs, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the squash:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish that is big enough to hold the squash halves with olive oil.
Place the squash, cut side down in the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
With a fork, scrape the squash strands into a large platter.
For the chicken:
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saute pan and brown the cutlets for 1-2 minutes per side to brown slightly. Remove to a plate and set aside.
For the sauce:
Add the mushrooms to the saute pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
Add the sliced onions, peppers and celery to the pan and cook until soft; about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.
Reduce the heat and add the marinara sauce, seasonings and herbs to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the chicken cutlets. Simmer the cacciatore for about 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf.
Warm the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Serve the chicken and sauce over the cooked spaghetti squash strands.
Stir Fried Cabbage With Smoked Sausages
Cornbread goes very well with this dish.
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 oz natural fully cooked smoked sausage, hot dogs or kielbasa, thinly sliced on a bias
1 small head green cabbage
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, minced
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage, then immerse the whole head in the boiling water until the outer leaves begin to loosen.
Remove cabbage from the water and carefully peel away as many outer leaves as will come off easily, usually 8 to 12 leaves are large enough for stuffing. Reserve those leaves for stuffing. Thinly slice the remaining cabbage.
In a large skillet over medium, heat the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté until onion is soft.
Add the cabbage, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss to mix all ingredients together and coat the cabbage with butter and seasonings.
Cover the pan and cook the mixture until the cabbage is tender.
Add sliced sausage to the pan, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the sausage is hot and the cabbage becomes creamy.
Top with fresh parsley before serving.
Chicken Cutlets In Mushroom Sauce
1 large chicken breast, about 8 oz cut in half lengthwise
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
One quarter of a medium onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Season the chicken breasts with sea salt and black pepper on both sides.
In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, pan-sear the chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon butter.
Sear the chicken breasts on both sides until they are a golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.
Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate.
Using the same pan, reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining butter and the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the sliced onion and mushrooms. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Using a rubber spatula, scrape up any brown bits in the pan. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low to simmer. Let simmer 2-3 minutes.
Add heavy cream and allow to simmer 5-10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Mix in Parmesan cheese, sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Add the chicken back to the pan. Finish cooking the chicken in the sauce over low heat, for about 10 minutes.
World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. Experts from all over the world came together to promote the importance of spreading knowledge of the world’s numerous types of pasta. This organization uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.
Everything from encouraging consumers to try new pastas to providing important health information is part of their mission. Every country is encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way, while sharing the logo of the official organization and participating in the global strategy of World Pasta Day. One of the best ways to celebrate World Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite pasta at home. Here are a few of mine.
3-4 stuffed shells per serving.
6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21-22 shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound (2 bunches) fresh spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce
Wash the spinach or chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the leaves into thin strips.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.
Add the greens, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted.
Cover the pan and simmer until the leaves are very tender, about ten minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.
Mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooled, cooked greens.
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.
Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cover the dish with foil.
Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.
Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ cups pasta water
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.
Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.
Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time.
Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.
Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise the heat and cook until the sauce is hot.
Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.
Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl.
Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.
Creamy Zucchini Pasta
Salt to taste
8 ounces penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large zucchini, about one pound
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.
Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.
Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.
Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.
Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.
Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.
Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.
Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or Ricotta cheese
Heat the oven to 500º F.
Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Transfer to a rack; set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.
Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.
To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the Burrata cheese.
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Two 28-oz containers whole tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 dried lasagna noodles
Two 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Two 15-oz containers ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook another minute.
Turn heat to medium-high and add the ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink.
Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.
Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Squeeze all remaining moisture from the thawed spinach and place in large bowl.
Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined
Spread 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.
Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up.
Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.
Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.
A few weeks back I shared with you my initiation into spiralizing vegetables as part of my goal to add more vegetables to my family’s diet. I made an Italian Scampi dish then, and tried a few more Italian dishes after that. All good. This week, I am thinking Asian – Japanese style – and created a teriyaki beef tenderloin steak and stir fried vegetable combination. Give it a try. this recipe is for two servings. It can be doubled or tripled.
Zucchini Noodle Stir Fry
The sauce really needs the heat from the red pepper flakes to make a rounded sauce. Try not to leave it out.
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 medium zucchini, spiralized
Half of a large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into very thin strips
Half yellow onion, sliced thin
1 small carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon peanut oil
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
In a mixing bowl, combine the stir-fry sauce ingredients and set aside.
Whisk together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet or wok. Add ginger, bell peppers, carrot and onion.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened, about 30 seconds.
Add zucchini noodles and stir just until hot.
1 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese wine)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolved in ¼ cup water)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust sweetness according to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 onion (small, don’t chop)
2 beef tenderloin steaks (1 inch thick about 4 oz each)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup store-bought or homemade teriyaki sauce (recipe above)
In a saucepan mix together water, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, brown sugar, black pepper, ginger, garlic, onion (don’t chop) and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add cornstarch mixture, simmer until the consistency is thick.
Remove ginger and onion from the sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.
When cool, pour ¼ cup teriyaki sauce over the steaks and let marinate for about one hour..
In a small heavy skillet, heat the sesame oil.
Cook the beef steaks for 3 minutes on each side.
Place on a plate and let the steaks rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the stir-fry vegetable dish.
Grilled Beef Fajitas
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 boneless ribeye steaks, about 12-14 oz each
2 red sweet bell peppers, cut in half and seeded
1 whole red onion, peeled and sliced into three circles
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup prepared salsa, warmed
Fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
Guacamole and lime quarters, to serve on the side
Make the marinade:
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, salt, 2 tablespoons lime juice, jalapeno, cumin and olive oil.
Remove as much fat as possible from the steaks.
Add the steaks to the bag, seal and toss to coat well. Marinate and refrigerate early in the day.
Preheat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates. Remove the steaks from marinade; discard marinade.
Grill the steaks over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side for medium-rare; set aside on a plate and cover with foil.
Lower one side of the grill to medium-low. Spray the vegetables with olive oil cooking spray and cook bell peppers halves and onion slices about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables softened and have a few grill marks..
Wrap tortillas in foil; place on the back of the grill or the bun warmer to heat about 5 minutes before serving
Slice the steaks thinly across the grain. Slice the vegetables. Place in a serving bowl and mix with the warmed salsa. Add cilantro and mix well.
To assemble fajitas:
Spread tortillas with the steak and vegetable mixture, top with a little sour cream and serve with lime quarters and guacamole on the side.
The beans taste better if made the day before serving.
To cook the beans
! ½ cups orca beans (white and black colorings), washed
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
To finish the bean dish
½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
Place the beans in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with cold water by two inches high. Cover and soak overnight.
The next day, add the onion, garlic and salt to the soaking liquid and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 60 minutes or until tender.
Chill the beans overnight in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid.
The next day, drain the beans. Stir in the cilantro and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and chili powder. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the beans and heat. Serve as a side dish.
1/2 of a whole cabbage (8 oz), sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
In a large bowl combine the onion, sugar, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, whipping cream, vinegar and lemon juice, using a whisk to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
Add the thinly sliced cabbage, stir gently to mix.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Mediterranean Swordfish Kabobs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
½ teaspoon dried granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 1/2 lbs swordfish fillets, cut into one inch cubes
1 zucchini, cut into one inch circles
1 red bell pepper, cut into one inch squares
Zest the lemon and then juice it, reserving 2 tablespoons juice.
Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, lemon zest, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag or a glass dish.
Add swordfish cubes, zucchini and bell pepper; toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
Prepare an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.
Thread the swordfish, zucchini and bell pepper on skewers, alternating them, with a little space between each piece. Brush the skewers with any remaining marinade.
Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes per side or until cooked to your taste. Slide the kabobs off the skewers onto a serving plate to serve.
Easy Cucumber Salad
3 cucumbers, peeled
1/2 red onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the cucumbers into ½ inch thick circles and arrange in a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the chopped red onion over the cucumbers. Drizzle your favorite ranch dressing over the cucumbers and onion.
Can be refrigerated for a short time or serve immediately.
Inviting friends over for dinner does not have to be a scary experience. With a little planning and the right kinds of recipes, it can be very manageable. On a recent evening, I entertained six of my friends for dinner and a relaxing evening. Here is my game plan.
Choose recipes that you can cook or do most of the preparation for in advance.
The main dish I served can be done the day before, refrigerated overnight and reheated while you and your guests enjoy an easy appetizer and cocktails. I have included my make ahead tips in the recipes below.
Mixed Olives, Sliced Havarti Cheese and Breadsticks. Chilled Prosecco
Italian Mixed Green Salad with Pistachios, Dried Raspberries and Gorgonzola Cheese
Make Ahead Tip: The greens can be washed a day ahead or early in the morning, dried in a spinner and placed in a salad serving bowl. Place a paper towel on top of the greens, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Slice the tomatoes and onions, place in a storage container, drizzle a little dressing over them, cover and refrigerate.
1 heart of romaine lettuce
1 head red/green leaf lettuce
10 radicchio leaves, torn into small pieces
¼ of a red onion, diced
1 pint sliced miniature colored tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
¼ cup dried raspberries
To the washed greens in the salad bowl, add the nuts and raspberries. Pour some dressing over the ingredients and mix well.
Place some of the greens on 6 individual salad dishes, top with some of the marinated tomatoes and onions and top the tomatoes with a one inch square of cheese. Serve immediately.
Swiss steak is meat, usually beef, prepared by braising in a cooking pot of stewed tomatoes, mushroom sauce, or some other sauce, either on a stove or in an oven. In England and in some parts of the United States, especially the South, it is also called smothered steak. The dish does not come from Switzerland, as the name suggests, but from the technique of tenderizing by pounding called “swissing”.
6 or more servings
Make Ahead Tip: This dish benefits from being prepared a day or two in advance. Once it has finished cooking, pour into a shallow, ovenproof casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. Take the casserole out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve it. Let the casserole come to room temperature for one hour. Then, reheat in a 325 degree oven for one hour. (The dish can reheat while you and your guests are enjoying appetizers and cocktails.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
16 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
3 pounds boneless round steak, 3/4-1/2 inch thick
4 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (brown gravy coloring)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Cut the round steak into serving size pieces and place between pieces of plastic wrap. Pound lightly to about 1/4 inch thick.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour.
In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add some of the meat and brown on both sides. Remove to a plate.
Repeat with remaining oil, butter and meat.
Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook until the onion is softened and the mushrooms have released their liquid.
Add the Worcestershire sauce and Kitchen Bouquet. Stir in ¼ cup all-purpose flour and mix until the flour dissolves. Add the beef broth.
If the broth doesn’t cover the meat, add a little water. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed into the broth and bring to a boil.
Add the browned meat back to the pot,
Cover the pot and bake for 3 hours or until tender. Remove the meat to a shallow ovenproof casserole. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate.
Take the casserole out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve it. Let the casserole come to room temperature for one hour.
Then, reheat, covered, in a 325 degree F oven for one hour.
Twice Baked Potatoes
Make Ahead Tip: The potatoes can be baked a day before or early in the morning of the day of your dinner party. They can be filled, covered and refrigerated until close to serving time. Take them out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve them. Let the stuffed potatoes come to room temperature for one hour. Then reheat in the oven with the casserole, uncovered, for one hour.
2 large russet potatoes about 14 -16 oz each, scrubbed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Paprika and chopped chives for garnish
Heat oven to 375°F. Gently scrub potatoes, but do not peel. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork to allow steam to escape while the potatoes bake. Wrap in heavy-duty foil.
Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when lightly squeezed.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise in half; scoop out the inside, leaving a thin shell.
In a mixing bowl, mash the potatoes. Add the butter, salt and pepper; mix until the potatoes are light and fluffy.
Stir in the cream and cheddar cheese. Fill the potato shells and place them in a baking dish.
Sprinkle with paprika and chives. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Take them out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve them. Let the stuffed potatoes come to room temperature for one hour.
Then reheat in the oven, along with the Swiss Steak casserole, uncovered, for one hour.
To serve: cut each potato boat in half (to make 8 pieces). Serve one half to each guest. There will be 2 second helpings.
These are very filling. I have found that half of a large potato is sufficient for most guests.
Green Beans with Ginger and Lemon Zest
Make Ahead Tip: Blanch the beans in boiling water the day before or early in the morning on the day you are serving them. Place them in a storage container and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover and refrigerate.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Blanch the green beans in boiling water for two minutes. Drain.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
Add the lemon zest, cover the pan and steam the beans until they are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper and pour into a serving dish.
Pear Frangipane Tart
This pastry should be made early in the day of your dinner party. It cannot be made a day ahead because it will lose its crispness.
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry
3 firm-ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 12×12 inch rectangle.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (I use an attractive baking pan that can also be used for serving.) Prick pastry with a fork.
Build up the sides slightly by folding in about 1/2 inch of the pastry on the edges. Brush edges with egg white.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar with the almond flour and all-purpose flour. Set aside.
Beat together the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer at moderately high-speed until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the flavored extracts.
Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour mixture just until combined.
Spread frangipane filling evenly over the tart shell.
Peel, halve and core pears, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange pears decoratively on filling.
Brush the pears with the egg white.
Bake until the pears are golden and frangipane is puffed up around the pears and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Cool tart completely in the baking pan on a rack, then slide parchment out from under the tart. Leave at room temperature until serving time.
Garnish with frozen yogurt or whipped cream, if desired.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This series continues with the country of Syria.
Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.
Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.
One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.
For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.
Syrian Recipes To Make At Home
Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom
2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.
Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.
Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.
This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.
To fill the grape leaves:
Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.
Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.
Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,
When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.
Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.
Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.
Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.
If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.
Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot
Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.
Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.
Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.
Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)
Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.
Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.
Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.
In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.
Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.
Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.
Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)
This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.
1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.
Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.
Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.
Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.
Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.