Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beef

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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 


 

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The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.

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Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.

The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).

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Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.

Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.

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Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.

Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.

Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.

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Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.

The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.

Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)

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“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.

4 servings

Ingredients

4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine the  minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.

In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.

Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.

Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.

Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)

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Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Parsley, chopped

Directions

Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.

In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.  

Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.

Pidoni

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Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.

For the dough:

400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the filling:

500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Directions

Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.

About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.

Make the filling.

Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.

It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.

Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.

Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.

Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.

Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.

Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork,  drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.

Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8

Pistachio Gelato

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Ingredients

4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below

Directions

In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.

Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.

Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.

Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.

When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.

Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.

Pistachio Cream

Ingredients

1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.

Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).

NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.

Makes approximately 1 cup.

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Veduta del Golfo di Napoli

The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius  overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

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Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.

Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.

Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city.  Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

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Pasta with Meat Ragu

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.

Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.

Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.

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Sfogliatella.

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Zeppole

The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.

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Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.

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Making Limoncello

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Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.

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Mozzarella di Bufala.

Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”,  that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.

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Neapolitan Ragu

Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rump roast
  • 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
  • 1 pound veal stew meat
  • 1 pound pork ribs
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.

On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.

Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)

The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.

During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.

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Pizza Margherita

Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Topping for 1 pizza

  • 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed  in a blender
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions

For the pizza dough:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.

Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.

With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.

On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.

When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.

On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.

Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.

For the pizza

Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.

With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.

Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.

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Pasta con i Calamari

Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 whole fresh squid
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 peperoncino
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 8 oz paccheri pasta

Directions

Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.

Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.

Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.

While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.

Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.

Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.

Garnish with a few basil leaves.

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

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Grilled Corn and Grilled Squash Boats

First Course

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Tomato Salad with Herbed Ricotta Cheese

Serve with crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Second Course

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch slices

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Italian Frying Peppers

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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Grilled Yellow Squash Boats

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Recipe

Dessert Course

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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Father’s Day can be a great day for the whole family. Plan a family event, getting everyone in the family together for a fun day. Since the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not celebrate Dad’s special day outdoors with a delicious family BBQ?  Of course, you will want to choose foods your Dad enjoys. The recipes I picked for this menu are easy to do and most of the preparation can be done a day before, so you have plenty of time to spend with Dad.

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Beef & Shrimp Kebabs with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 – Recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound filet mignon (beef tenderloin), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons steak seasoning, divided (I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 wooden or metal skewers 6 inches long

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using.

Place the shrimp in one bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 3/4 teaspoon steak seasoning and toss again.

Place the beef in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add  1 1/4 teaspoons steak seasoning and toss again.

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Thread the beef and shrimp on the skewers, alternating beef and shrimp.

Prepare an outdoor grill for moderate heat. Oil the grill grates. Place skewers on the grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until the steak is cooked medium rare and the shrimp turn pink, turning the skewers over once.

Italian Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

To prepare the salsa verde: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside to let the flavors develop.

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Summer Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lbs small to medium red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice from the jar
  • 1/4 cup minced pickles
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot of water.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices. Place in a bowl and pour the pickle juice over the warm potatoes and let sit for one hour.

Add the pickles, celery, onion and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add salt if necessary. Add the parsley and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for a few hours.

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Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked and cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the uncooked corn kernals, tomatoes, onion, celery, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the salad to marinate. Serve chilled.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • Refrigerated pie crusts (or your favorite pie crust mix) for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sugar

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other pie thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Fit one pastry crust into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cover with the top crust and flute the edges. Make several slits in the crust with a knife.

Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch the drips).


Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Tuscan Vineyard and Abbey painted by Marilyn Dunlap

Chianti, Italy, is the Classico wine region in the province of Tuscany, Italy. Chianti” is the name of the wine region but the wine from Chianti is known as Chianti Classico, to distinguish it from other Chianti wines that come from areas of Tuscany outside the Chianti region. Stretching between Florence and Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is highly romanticized  area with its terracotta-roofed towns and vineyards stretching across sun-draped hillsides. However, you no longer will find the straw-wrapped wine bottles readily available. Today, Chianti vintners produce excellent, nuanced wines that are worthy of elegant surroundings.

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Chianti Vineyards

The Chianti DOCG covers all the Chianti wine region and includes a large stretch of land encompassing the western areas of Pisa near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Florentine hills to the north, the province of Arezzo in the east and the Siena hills to the south. These vineyards overlap the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  Any Sangiovese-based wine made according to the Chianti guidelines from these vineyards can be labelled and marked under the Chianti DOCG should the producer wish to use the designation.

The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Wines labelled “Chianti Classico” come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.

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Sangiovese grapes

During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995, it became legal to produce a Chianti made completely from Sangiovese grapes. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed to be labelled as “Superiore”.

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Antinori Winery

The Antinori family has been producing wine in the region since the 1300s.  The family company, Marchesi Antinori, is planting for the future. In the fall of 2012, a new, architecturally stunning winemaking facility, called Antinori nel Chianti Classico, was inaugurated. And in March of the following year, the glass-and-steel complex opened to the public for tours of its elegant cantina and grounds. “The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation. “We wanted to have a winery which was not a monument, but integrated in the landscape.”

Tasting Room

Antinori Tasting Room

The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot, multilevel winery, with an energy-efficient gravity-flow system and naturally cool underground barrel rooms that have yet to need air-conditioning. In addition, the new location houses the company’s headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo. Its most dramatic features are the glass-walled tasting rooms that rise above the cathedral-like barrel cellars and the exterior onion-peel staircase that climbs to a terrace built on a swooping 70-foot roof overhang.

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Wine Type

Is identified in one of three ways (see below):

Region

The region or sub-region will always be located next to the classification level

Classification (DOCG, DOC, IGT, Vino da Tavola)

Wine Name

This is never next to the classification and often indicates that the wine is a blend of grapes, as in the case of a Super Tuscan wine.

Producer Name

Italian wineries will often use words like Tenuta, Azienda, Castello or Cascina in their name.

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What makes Chianti the perfect food wine?

Chianti, a red blend from Tuscany, is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil.

When you think of pairing Chianti with food, most people think of pasta and it is a perfect combination, but there is so much more that you can pair with Chianti.

It’s a great compliment to strong-tasting poultry dishes, spiced lamb or even beef (as long as it’s not overly fatty). If you are looking for a good wine with pizza, Chianti is a good choice.

Lasagna

Chianti’s is a perfect accompaniment for lasagna. It’s higher acid level stands up well to Lasagna’s rich tomato sauce and it has enough flavor to stand up to sausage or meat that is often part of the dish.

Spaghetti Bolognese

A rich meat sauce made with a tomato and wine base pairs with Chianti.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

The herbs used to flavor the meat pair perfectly with the slightly acidic nature of Chianti.

Cioppino

It was first created in San Francisco by the fishermen whose diet was pretty much limited to whatever they caught at sea and didn’t sell. Trading with other fisherman for different types of seafood brought variety and, in the process, created one of the world’s favorite seafood stews. The brininess brought by the seafood along the tomato flavor are the ideal compliment for Chianti.

Pizza Margherita

Pair pizza with Chianti. Chianti is light enough to not overwhelm pizza Margherita’s simple flavors of basil, tomatoes and cheese.

Main Dish Recipes to Serve with Chianti Wine

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Tuscan Market

Pork and Mushroom Ragu 

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, minced
  • 2 lbs boneless pork ribs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • One 16 oz can peeled tomatoes, in their juice and chopped
  • 1/4 flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 lb package pappardelle pasta

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a boil. Soak porcini mushrooms in the boiled broth for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the porcini, chop them and set them aside. Reserve the broth.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add a layer of pork ribs and brown the meat on all sides, about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove the browned pork, set aside and repeat with the remaining pork until all the pieces are well browned.

Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until they are softened and most of the released juices evaporate. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, meat, reserved porcini beef broth, chopped porcini mushrooms and tomatoes to the pot. Mix well and bring it to a brisk simmer.

Cover and adjust heat to a low simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Stir frequently, add 1/4 cup of water as needed to keep it moist.

Cook the pappardelle pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain. Mix the pasta with the ragu and top with the parsley.

Chicken and Sausage Skewers

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Ingredients

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. thin sliced prosciutto, cut each slice in half
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh Italian sausage cut into 2″ pieces
  • Sage leaves
  • 12 skewers

Directions:

Over low heat in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and the chopped rosemary leaves.  Once the oil and rosemary start to sizzle, remove from the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature (can be done 4 days in advance).

Whisk 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil with the white wine vinegar; add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30-60 minutes. Reserve the remaining oil.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and lightly season with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece of chicken with a piece of prosciutto.

Alternate the chicken and sausage on the skewers, placing a sage leaf between them. Each skewer should have about 2 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of sausage to make 12 skewers.

Refrigerate the kebabs until ready to cook. When ready to grill, brush the chicken and sausage with some of the remaining rosemary oil.

Heat a grill and create a low heat section. Cook the skewers over low heat and turn frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes on each side. Brush with more rosemary oil if the meat appears dry during cooking.

Alternatively, the skewers can be cooked in the broiler until they are browned.

Classic San Francisco Cioppino

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 pounds), cracked and cleaned, still in the shell.
  • 2 pounds fresh halibut fillet or other firm-fleshed white fish, cubed
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels OR clams OR oysters OR a combination of those, depending on what is available

Directions

In a large pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat.

Sauté the celery, onions and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes). Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the seafood and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for one hour. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Add the white fish and shrimp. Simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Add mussels and simmer for 3-5 minutes more, until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Add the crab last and just heat through. Ladle the stew into large bowls and serve with crusty sourdough bread and lots of napkins.

Sunday Braciole

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the filling over the flank steak covering it evenly.  Starting at the shorter end, roll up the flank steak into a tight cylinder. Tie the roll with butcher’s twine (kitchen string).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the braciole. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

Carefully remove the braciole to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the braciole back into the pan.  Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Bake turning the braciole every 30 minutes and basting with the tomato sauce.

After one hour uncover the pan and bake until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more wine or water to the sauce if needed as it cooks.

Remove the braciole from the sauce and let rest for ten minutes. Remove the twine.

Slice the braciole into 1 inch thick slices.  Transfer to a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with the basil and parsley.

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Grilled Lamb Chops

For the steak seasoning, I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you like.

For 2

Ingredients

  • 4 loin lamb chops, 1 ½ lbs and 1 ½ inches thick, fat trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • 2 lemon quarters

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Directions

In a zip-lock bag combine the lamb chops, oil, lemon juice and steak seasoning. Close the bag and mix well. Refrigerate the lamb chops overnight.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat and oil the grill rack. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Transfer the lamb chops to the grill. Cook 5 minutes,; turn and cook 5 minutes. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon quarters.

If making the potatoes on the grill leave continue to cook them while the lamb chops rest.

Grilled Potatoes

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Boil the potatoes in water for 6 minutes, until slightly cooked but firm in the center. Drain potatoes in a colander. Dry on paper towel.

Place the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and mix well.

Place a piece of heavy-duty foil on the opposite side of the grill from the lamb chops. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the foil. Cook for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking..

Cucumber Tomato Salad

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled if bitter, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Place the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber.  Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers and dry them with paper towels

Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. Refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, dress the salad with some of the ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, chopped herbs, onion powder, paprika, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Mix until well combined then cover and place into a refrigerator for at least 30 before serving so the flavors have time to mingle.

Swordfish and Zucchini Kebabs  

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For 2

Ingredients

Swordfish

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, 1 inch thick (about 12 oz)
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Black pepper

Kebabs

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed
  • 10 squares of red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 skewers

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper, scatter garlic over the fish and pour olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1 inch pieces. I had 10. Remove 2 red onion rings from a large onion. Cut each ring into 5 –  one inch pieces.

Remove the garlic from the fish and cut the fish into 10 – one inch pieces.

Tread 2 skewers, alternating fish, zucchini and onion. Pour the dripping from the fish marinade over the skewers.

Heat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Place the skewers on the grill and close the cover. Lower the heat to medium. Cook about 12 minutes until the fish is cooked through, turning the skewers halfway through the cooking time. Serve the kebabs over spaghetti.

 A New Way To Cook Pasta

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Angel Hair Pasta 

I have read several articles about cooking pasta in a skillet with less water. I made a full pound of spaghetti for this recipe to test this non-traditional procedure for cooking pasta. The leftovers will not be wasted. It worked very well. The pasta cooked quickly and was perfectly cooked. You do have to stir it often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is definitely an energy and time saver, without loss of flavor.

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Ingredients

Pasta

  • 16 oz thin spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Place pasta in a dry 12 inch skillet (if pasta is very long, such as spaghetti, break the stands in half). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups cold water.

Place over high heat and cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep pasta submerged, until pasta is almost al dente, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.

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Tilt the pan and spoon off the liquid that pools at the edge of the pan into a bowl, so that very little is left in pan. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta.

Return just enough cooking liquid to the pasta, tossing them with the spaghetti. Serve with the swordfish kebabs.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

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Use this sauce for the meatballs and eggplant recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft over medium to low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute; be careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid.

Cook for 25 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

Neapolitan Meatballs

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I call these Neapolitan meatballs because this is how my grandmother made them. She grew up in northern Campania before moving to America.

Makes 16 meatballs

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 thick slices firm, hardy white bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add the bread to a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk. Add the onion and garlic, stir and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bread mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough.

Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces and shape them into meatballs.

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You can brown the meatballs in a skillet in olive oil until brown. Or, you can put them on a foil lined baking pan and bake in a 350 F oven for about 25-30 minutes until brown.

Place the meatballs in a medium-large sauce pan or skillet and cover with some the homemade marinara sauce. Simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan

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This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
  • ¼ of a small red onion, cut into rings

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.



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