Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: focaccia

If you are looking to reduce some of the carbs in your diet, this is a good meal to make. Serve this wintertime dinner with pickles, Giardiniera, pickled peppers or olives on the side.

Italian Burgers With Garlic Lemon Aioli

Since I usually cook just for two, I cut this recipe in half.

4 burgers

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs ground beef, shaped into four patties
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Sprig of rosemary
1 large clove garlic, crushed
4 slices (1/4 inch thick) sweet onion
4 slices fresh tomato (1/4 inch thick)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices 1/2-inch-thick and 4 inches wide of Focaccia bread, toasted

Quick Lemon Garlic Aioli
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Sprinkle of salt
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Optional: ½ teaspoon anchovy paste

Directions

 

For the aioli
In a small, shallow bowl, combine the garlic and lemon juice. Stir to combine and spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, so the lemon juice can absorb the garlic’s flavor.
Place a fine-mesh strainer over another bowl. Using a silicone or rubber spatula, scoop the contents of the bowl into the strainer, then press on the garlic with the spatula to get as much juice out as possible. Discard the garlic.
Stir the mayo into the garlicky lemon juice until combined. Add the Dijon mustard and anchovy paste. Aioli will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 10 days. It will thicken up more as it chills.

For the burgers
Season the burgers with salt, pepper, and dried Italian seasoning.
Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high to high. Add the olive oil to the pan and tilt the pan to distribute the oil..Add the patties and onion slices. Cook, about 6 minutes for rare or 8 minutes for medium-rare. Turn the patties and onion slices over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the onion slices and place them on the toasted bread. Leave the burgers in the pan.

Add the butter, rosemary, and garlic to the pan. Using a large spoon, baste the patties for about 2 minutes with the garlic-rosemary butter; top each burger with a slice of tomato. Place ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of each tomato. Cover the pan to melt the cheese, about 1 minute.
Serve the burgers on top of the toasted bread with the garlic aioli. I had baked Foccacia that was one-inch thick and I cut the pan into 4-inch square pieces. I then cut one square in half lengthwise to use for the base of the burger.

Red Cabbage Slaw

If you do not have lemon-flavored olive oil, add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to the dressing.

Ingredients

1/4 of a head of red cabbage, about 8 oz., shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover cranberries with water and let sit for 15 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Drain.
Toss together the cabbage, carrots, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
In a serving dish with a cover whisk together the vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Toss with the cabbage, carrots, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
Taste, adjust seasonings and serve. Alternately, allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator, then serve.


Serve with Focaccia Bread and a Winter Salad. Recipes below.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cups seafood stock or clam juice
1 teaspoon seafood (Old Bay) seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 lb firm boneless fish fillets (such as halibut, cod, red snapper, sea bass, grouper), cut into small cubes
8 oz medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, tails removed and cut in half
8 oz sea scallops, halved
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

Directions

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir into the vegetables. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the vegetables until tender. Remove the cover and the salt, pepper, chili flakes, seafood seasoning, thyme, and tomatoes. Sir well.

Add the fish cubes, Cook stirring the mixture gently for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and scallops and cook for 2 minutes more or until the seafood is cooked. Add the cream, parsley, and remaining tablespoon butter, heating gently until the butter is incorporated. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve in large individual pasta bowls.

Winter Salad

Radishes are in season where I live and this week they came in jumbo sizes.

Ingredients

Dressing
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Salad
4 cups arugula, washed well and dried
4 jumbo radishes or 8 small radishes (8 ounces), sliced thin

Directions

In a medium salad bowl, whisk together mustard and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in oil. (To store, refrigerate, up to 1 day.) Add arugula and radishes to bowl, and toss to coat. Serve salad immediately.

Easy Focaccia

Ingredients

1 pound pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and black pepper, for sprinkling
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the pizza dough into a rectangle or oval on a sheet of parchment paper. Place the dough and the parchment on a baking sheet.
Using a pastry brush, cover the top of the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle the dough with the garlic and rosemary. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.


Shrimp

4 servings

Ingredients

1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium shallot, finely minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
10 oz fettuccine

Directions

Boil a large pot of salted water, add the pasta and cook just until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In the same pot melt the butter and add the shallot and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and saute just until the shrimp turn pink on both sides. Over low heat add the cream and heat for a minute. Add the cheese and stir. Add the drained fettuccine and mix well. Add the parsley, stir and serve immediately.

Sautéed Winter Greens

4 servings

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 cups (packed) stemmed and roughly chopped swiss chard or other greens
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Heat the garlic and oil in large, deep skillet over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

Add the Swiss chard, red pepper flakes, and salt to the empty skillet. Using tongs, turn greens until wilted enough to fit in the pan.

Raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, tossing a few times during the cooking process. Transfer the greens to a colander to drain.

Return the drained greens to the pan, turn the heat to low and toss with the reserved garlic and oil mixture. When hot, transfer to a serving bowl to serve.

Very Easy Focaccia

Ingredients

1 pound pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 garlic clove minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves or other herbs you like, minced
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the pizza dough into a rectangle or oval on a sheet of parchment paper. Place the parchment with the dough on it on a baking sheet.
Using a pastry brush, cover the top of the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt, garlic, cheese, and rosemary. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

 


This is one of our favorite pasta dishes. Yes, I use canned clams in broth instead of whole clams. I think this version, that I have fiddled with over the years, is now just the way we like it. Lots and lots of flavor. Be sure to cook the spaghetti al dente. A great bread and salad round out a delicious meal.

Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cans of minced clams with liquid (do not drain)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 large cloves of thinly sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
10 oz spaghetti

Directions

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning.

Turn the heat to low and let the ingredients cook slowly for a few minutes to infuse the oil. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the clams with their liquid,stir and simmer for 4 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta and parsley to the saute pan and mix thoroughly. Cook until the pasta is hot. Serve immediately in pasta bowls.

Greek Salad

4 servings

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano or Greek seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

4 cups Romaine lettuce, broken into bite sized pieces
1 cup cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup sliced deli pepper rings
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Directions

For the dressing

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

For the salad

Place the onions, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and olives over the lettuce in a salad bowl.

Crumble the feta cheese over all.

Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve in individual bowls.

Herb and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with herbs, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Leftovers can be reheated in a toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.


Mediterranean ingredients and flavors are abundant in this dinner. Fish, beans and bread all healthy foods prepared with olive oil and healthy cooking methods. Seasoning is important in making recipes that taste good. Fennel, rosemary, parsley, sage, garlic, preserved lemon and olives all contribute to making these foods taste so good. Don’t leave any of them out and definitely try the bean recipe – it is delicious.

Mediterranean Grilled Salmon

Prepare the bean recipe first and keep warm while you grill the salmon.

Ingredients

1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 center-cut salmon fillets with skin
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 large green olives, such as Cerignola

Directions

In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the scallion, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice.

Using a sharp knife, make several 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin. Rub the preserved lemon mixture on all sides of the salmon. Place in a covered dish and allow to marinate several hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before grilling. Rub the remaining oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Light an outdoor grill and oil the grates very well so the fish does not stick.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes.

Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

Place the fish over the prepared cannellini beans and garnish with chopped parsley. Scatter the olives over the fish.

Cannellini Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
8 fresh sage leaves
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted cut in half if large
2 cups cooked cannellini beans, canned or homemade and drained
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

Directions

Combine the onion, garlic, sage, fennel, celery and oil in a deep, wide skillet.

Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion and fennel start to soften.

Add the artichoke hearts, the beans, broth and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper chili flakes. Keep warm.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Focaccia is delicious hot from the oven or warm and it is best the same day it’s made. But leftovers can be successfully reheated, either as slices in the toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.

 


baricover

The Province of Bari is in the Puglia region of Italy. It is attractive to tourists and has a large commercial harbor and airport and an excellent university. It is also the second most important economic center in Southern Italy after Naples.

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

The large, fertile plains of Bari stretch inland from the coast where olives, grapes and almonds are grown. Bari is among the largest and most populated province in Italy. Apart from the plains area around the city of Bari, the territory is mainly high hills, called “murge” that is partly occupied by the recently established National Park of Alta Murgia.

bari1

The old houses in this region are interesting, ranging from the ancient masserie (old fortified farmhouses) and the very popular, much photographed conical houses called trulli.

The area is famous for its olive oil. Italy is the second biggest producer, after Spain, and Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance here and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘orecchiette’ (meaning little ears). The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in a traditional wood burning.

Vegetables grow well in the warm climate and are used frequently in Bari’s cuisine. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and eggplant, peppers and squash are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The province is a good area to raise sheep and goats. They are bred for their meat, as well as their milk, which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Local cheeses include, Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream, Cacioricotta – a seasonal ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk and Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine because the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

barimarket
The daily cuisine, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and unprocessed with most locals growing, rearing and making enough food for their individual needs.

Eggplant Rollatini

bari5

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 8 lengthwise slices (You may also choose to leave the skin on)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh oregano, thyme and basil ( or ¼ teaspoon each of dried herbs)
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the eggplant.

bari3bari4

Heat a grill pan or the broiler. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Grill or broil eggplant slices three minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the filling on each eggplant slice.  Roll up tightly, jelly roll style. Place the eggplant rolls in an oiled baking dish and cover with the marinara sauce.

Bake in a 400-degree F oven for about 20 minutes.  Makes 8 appetizer or 4 main dish servings.

Focaccia Bari Style

bari6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 grams) 00-type flour {substitute all-purpose if you don’t have the Italian flour}
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiled until fork tender, drained and cooled.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 kalamata olives, halves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Using a ricer, add the cooked potatoes.

Add the water and a small pinch of salt to the flour and begin kneading to obtain a sticky, firm ball.

You can also make the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in a warm, dry place. About 1 hour — depending on the warmth of your kitchen it may take longer.

Preheat oven to 430 degrees F.

Use olive oil to generously grease a large baking pan (about 12 inches). Don’t use anything smaller or the dough will creep over the edge. Stretch the dough to evenly fill the pan.

Press the halved tomatoes into the dough, cut side down and do the same with the olives. Sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.

Drizzle the surface with more olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the surface appears evenly browned and the tomatoes are caramelized.

Lightly dust with Parmesan cheese when the focaccia is finished baking. Let cool on a cooling rack before cutting.

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

bari7

Serves 4

  • 1 lb (500 grams) spicy Italian sausage links
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (sometimes called turnip greens in Italy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 oz.(100 ml) white wine
  • 1 hot pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

To prepare the broccoli rabe:

Wash the broccoli rabe well and cut off the bottom tough part of the stem. Cut the stalks into one inch pieces.

Blanch the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes in boiling salted water and drain well.

Place the garlic, oil, chopped chili and bay leaves in a large skillet with a cover; heat and saute for a few minutes.

Add the sausage links and cook until brown, about 5 minutes, add the white wine and allow it to evaporate. Add the blanched broccoli and season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat for about 30 minutes . Uncover and cook for 5 minutes to allow the liquids to evaporate. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot.

Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels)

bari8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey or fig syrup

Directions:

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, oil, salt and cinnamon.

Slowly add the water and beat until the dough comes together.

Add additional water, if necessary, so the dough holds together.

Shape the dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Dust each piece with flour.

Pass the dough through a pasta machine set at the widest opening.

Pass each piece through successive settings until thin.

On a manual pasta machine, stop at setting #6.

Place each pasta strip on a lightly floured surface.

With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips 10 x 1-1/4 inches.

Fold each strip in half lengthwise but do not press it together.

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With the wavy edges pointing up, roll the strips into loose spirals about 2 inches wide.

Pinch the edges to seal. Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Let the pinwheels dry at room temperature for 2 hours.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven to 370 degrees F.

Carefully add a few pinwheels at a time to the oil.

Fry until evenly golden, about 1 minute.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Heat honey in a small saucepan until it thins.

Arrange the cartellate on a large platter. Drizzle with the warm honey.

Best served immediately or within a few hours.

barimap


flatbread1

Flatbreads are breads made with flour, water and salt that are rolled into a flattened dough and baked. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast—although some are slightly leavened, such as pita bread. Flatbread became known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), when the Sumerians discovered that edible grains could be mashed into a paste and then baked/hardened into a flatbread. Unleavened breads (such as matzoh which is not prepared with leavening) are usually flatbreads that hold special religious significance in Judaism and Christianity.

flatbread2

Flatbreads may contain such ingredients as curry powder, diced jalapenos, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added, as well, and flatbreads are usually thin. Cheese and  tomato sauce are not usually added to flatbread.

flatbread5

Pizza, on the other hand, is usually made from dough containing yeast that is topped with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and vegetables. The crust is usually thin and most of the surface is covered with the toppings.

flatbread3

Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs and may at times be topped with onion, Focaccia can be used as the bread to accompany a meal. The primary difference between conventional pizza and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil.

Easy Flatbread

flatbread4

Makes two 12-inch breads

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed

Directions

Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

To shape the dough:

Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths. Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Cut the dough into 2 pieces.

Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each piece of dough with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes for the gluten  to relax.

Turn the dough over and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Turn again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with the remaining salt.

Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes and carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with salami,  cheese, peppery extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes.

Neapolitan Pizza

For 1 pizza

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Dough, recipe below
  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 cup sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Prepare pizza dough as directed in the recipe below. About 2 hours before baking, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to proof.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan.

Place one ball of dough in the pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Top the dough with All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and several basil leaves brushed with olive oil.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, cheese is turning golden, and edges of pizza are golden brown.

All-Purpose Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt or 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except olive oil cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead.

Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough in three portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand to come to room temperature.

All-Purpose Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

  • One 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.

Onion Focaccia

onion foccacia bread bites

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt , divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds sweet yellow onions , cut into eighths and thickly sliced

Directions

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil and 1 cup warm water, then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly oiled 15-inch x 11-inch jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out to the edges of the pan. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over the dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.


springcover

As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.

Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.

What spring foods are you most looking forward to?

spring1

Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia

Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)

8  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 8 ounces  mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

spring3

Spring Onion Soup

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
  • 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.

Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.

Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before  serving.

spring4

Spring Shrimp Salad

Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).

4 servings

Ingredient

  • 1  lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
  • 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions

From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.

In a large bowl, toss lemon  peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.

Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.

In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.

spring5

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb

TOPPING:

  • 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

spring2

Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese

Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.

Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.

spring6

Spring Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions

Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

spring7

Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.

spring8

Herbed Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.

spring9

Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.

spring0

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.


liguria2

Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Seafood is a major staple of Liguria, as the sea has been part of the region’s culture since its beginning. Another important aspect of the culture is the beach. Tourists have been flocking to the Italian Riviera for decades to experience its calm, deep blue water.

Liguria is the coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. This narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Mountains and steep cliffs that rise loftily out of the Ligurian Sea in the most northerly part of the Western Mediterranean.

liguria1

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region’s economic growth was remarkable: steel mills and shipyards flourished along the coast from Imperia to La Spezia, while the port of Genoa became the main commercial hub of industrializing Northern Italy. During the tragic period of World War II, Liguria experienced heavy bombings, hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led. When Allied troops eventually entered Genoa, they were welcomed by Italian partisans who, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command.

Steel, once a major industry during the booming 1950s and 1960s, phased out after the late 1980s, as Italy moved away from heavy industry to pursue more technologically advanced and less polluting productions. Ligurian businesses turned towards a widely diversified range of high-quality and high-tech products (food, electrical engineering, electronics, petrochemicals, aerospace etc.). Despite this new direction, the region still maintains a flourishing shipbuilding industry (yacht construction and maintenance, cruise liners and military shipyards).

liguria7

A good motorways network (376 km, 234 mi) makes communications with the border regions relatively easy. The main motorway is located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice (in France), Savona, Genoa and La Spezia.

liguria8

San Remo

The capital, Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today, one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions and churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city. Numerous historical treasures and be found throughout Liguria. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place. Other important cities in Liguria are: Imperia, Savona and La Spezia.

Genoa Port

Genoa Port

Visit Liguria in the video below:

The forests are covered with pine trees, providing the fresh pine nuts (pignoli) for Ligurian dishes. Mushrooms and chestnuts abound in the hills, as do rabbits and other wild game, making the region ideal for producing hearty and rustic country dishes. The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives, wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, onions and artichokes. Because of its wide coastline, fish and shellfish are the predominant proteins used in Ligurian cooking, though the region shares its love of pork and pork products with both its Italian and French neighbors.

Pasta is important to the region’s cuisine. A small lasagna noodle originated here, made from chestnut flour, is still popular today. The innovative Ligurians were skilled in making do with locally grown ingredients, like chestnuts and chickpeas, to produce flours to use in pasta, polenta and bread. Today, wheat is fairly easy to import to the region, so it is now the primary ingredient in pastas and breads.

liguria9

Pesto sauce is popular as a topping for pastas and is widely consumed, since basil and pine nuts are so readily available. Fidelini, a local favorite pasta, cut long and thin, is the perfect base for light sauces. Other favorites include, trenette a form of flat, thin pasta similar to linguine and hearty gnocchi, both of which can be found on almost every menu.

High on the list of Ligurian specialties is the bread known as focaccia. This flatbread is not meant to be stored for any length of time, but rather is best eaten straight from the oven. Though usually baked plain, the region’s abundance of herbs are often combined and sprinkled on top. Cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables are other regional additions to focaccia. Ligurian focaccias have a dense texture, perfect for sopping up rich sauces or simply a great tasting olive oil.

Regional Favorites To Make At Home

liguria4

Ligurian-Style Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
  • 1 cup  warm water
  • One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups  flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 tablespoons  rosemary or thyme leaves

Directions

Oil a large bowl and set it aside. Pour the water into a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.

Mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, then stir the yeast mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Coat your hands with flour, then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 2-3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the oiled bowl and roll it in the bowl to coat it lightly with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm spot until the dough roughly doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle to fit the baking pan. Put it in the oiled pan and pat the top down gently so it is even. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, make regular rows of slight indentations across the entire surface, spacing the indentations about 2 inches apart. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise for another hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the top of the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If desired, sprinkle 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves over the top of the focaccia after it has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.)

Serve warm or at room temperature and cut into wedges or squares.

liguria3

Cozze alla Maggiorana ed Aglio alla Ligure (Steamed Mussels with Marjoram and Garlic Ligurian-Style)

Serves 4

Mussels are plentiful along the rugged Ligurian coastline. Marjoram, a favorite herb in Liguria, is usually added to seafood dishes. Toss the mussels with 1 pound of cooked linguine for a first course.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

Directions

Soak the mussels in cool water to cover with 1 tablespoon of the salt for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly a few times. This step is essential for ridding the mussels of any dirt or sediment.

Place the garlic, marjoram, parsley and olive oil in a 4-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, mussels and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and serve hot, with the cooking juices.

liguria5

Ligurian Style Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Pesto, recipe follows
  • Besciamella, recipe follows
  • Butter, for baking dish, plus 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces for the topping
  • 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

BESCIAMELLA

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

PESTO

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about 4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of pignoli
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

BESCIAMELLA

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, while bringing the mixture to a boil; simmer for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

PESTO

Rinse the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.

Grate the cheeses and peel the garlic.

Combine the basil, the garlic, the pignoli and the olive oil in a blender and process until a paste forms. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

MAKING THE LASAGNA

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 13″ × 9″ x 4″ pan layer the ingredients as follows:

– a thin layer of besciamella

– cover with a layer of pasta

– a thin layer of besciamella

– 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface

– sprinkle the layer with 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan

– cover with a layer of pasta

– repeat the layering until you use all the pasta

– top with a very thin layer of besciamella and remaining pesto, parmesan cheese and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter

Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve with extra parmesan cheese.

liguria6

Italian Plum Cake

10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unblanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and sliced thickly

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or springform pan.

Put the almonds and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse once more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk for a minute or two until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the plum slices on top on a circular pattern. Sprinkle the 1/ 3 cup sugar over the plums.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


lunchtime

The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

lunchtime1

Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

lunchtime3

Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

lunchtime2

Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

lunchtime4

Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

lunchtime5

Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.



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