Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: focaccia

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.

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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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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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A single plant can produce over a dozen tomatoes, which means you can give a basket to the neighbors and still include almost every meal with this nutrient-rich fruit. Serve them in pasta, pizza, vinaigrettes and even desserts. Paired with the right spices, tomatoes can be sweet, tangy or tart.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy fresh produce is to free it from heavy sauces or other flavor-masking extras. Serve a Mediterranean-inspired stuffed tomato with feta, olives and a little basil. It’s a great complement to any grilled entrée or add a little chopped chicken to the mix and serve on its own. Use sturdy, ripe tomatoes for optimal flavor and presentation.

When the temperature climbs, dinner cravings often tend toward light and simple. Make a pasta dish that’s packed with the freshest of ingredients, including fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. A little olive oil adds flavor that rounds out the simple sauce.

Fresh tomato salsas, chutneys and dressings add color and flavor to almost any meat. Try it with grilled sea bass for a refreshing summer dish. A warm vinaigrette dressing pairs well with fluffy couscous, so make extra to use on other main dishes.

Update pizza night by replacing the standard jarred tomato sauce with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Top a store-bought pizza dough with the pesto, then layer on chopped tomatoes, garlic, provolone and a few sprinkles of basil and bake for a quick homemade pizza.

Looking for some new ideas on how to use tomatoes? Have you thought of these?

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup torn crusty country bread
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, sweet pepper quarters, onion wedges and garlic between two 15x10x1 inch baking pans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and vegetables are lightly browned on edges.

Place roasted vegetables and any pan juices in a large food processor. Add bread. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir in vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to make a thinner consistency. Cover; chill at last 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Spoon soup in bowls. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley.

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Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 thin slices firm-texture whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Chop enough meat to measure 2 cups; save the remaining chicken for another use.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups chicken, the spinach, green onions, basil, vinegar, oil and garlic. Toss to evenly coat.

Cut a 1/4 inch-thick slice from the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Place shells, open sides up, on a serving plate. Discard tomato seeds. Chop enough of the tomato pulp to measure 1/2 cup; reserve remaining pulp for another use.

Stir the 1/2 cup tomato pulp into the chicken mixture.

Divide chicken mixture among tomato shells. Top with bread cubes and cheese.

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Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pork rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large clove mashed garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dry the pork chops on paper towels. Heat the oil in a heavy, 10-12 inch oven-proof skillet with a cover.

Brown the chops, 2 or 3 at a time, on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. As they are browned, transfer them to a side dish.

Add the onions, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and the next four ingredients.

Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the pork chops to the pan and push them into the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to simmer on top of the stove, then set the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chops are done.

Arrange the chops on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chops. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornmeal and 2 cups of the remaining flour.

You can also use the dough hook on the electric mixer for this addition and the addition of the remaining flour below, instead.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to oil the surface.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Punch down dough; let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Place dough in the prepared baking pan. Gently pull and stretch dough to the edges of the baking pan, being careful not to overwork dough.

Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange tomato and artichoke slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Let stand for 15 minutes. Change paper towels as necessary so all of the excess liquid is absorbed from tomatoes and artichokes.

Using your fingers, press deep indentations in the dough 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary. Arrange tomatoes, artichokes, onion rings and garlic slivers evenly on top of dough.

Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

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Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) fish fillets (3/4- 1 inch thick) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season fish with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook fish in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in capers, basil, oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Return fish to the pan with the tomato sauce and heat gently. Serve fish topped with the sauce.


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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

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On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

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Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

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Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

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Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

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Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Presenting fine cheeses to your family and guests over the holidays is a special treat. It is elegant, sophisticated and festive, yet can be the most effortless of all your holiday food preparations.

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors on a cheese board. Most cheeses belong to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Here are some examples:

1. Blue: The most intense.

Gorgonzola, Cashel Blue, Fourme d’Ambert, Roquefort, Stilton.

Blue Cheese Combination: Oat cracker + Roquefort + honey

2. Semi-firm: Subtle but rich.

Manchego, Cave-Aged Cheddar, Fontina, Garrotxa, Saint-Nectaire.

Combinations: Baguette + Manchego + quince paste

Dried nectarine + Cave-Aged Cheddar

3. Super-aged: Sharp and nutty.

Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Comté, Aged Gouda, Aged Gruyère.

Combinations: Sea salt cracker + pear + Aged Gouda

Parmigiano-Reggiano + dried sausage

4. Pungent: Strong smelling.

Taleggio, Èpoisses, Langres, Livarot, Pont l’Évêque.

Combinations: Raisin-walnut bread + Livarot

Flat bread + Taleggio + chutney

5. Mild: Soft and creamy.

Fresh Chèvre, Brie, Camembert, French Chaource, Robiola.

Combinations: Wafer cracker + piquillo pepper + fresh chèvre

Wheat cracker + sun-dried tomato + Chaource

Tips

  • You can also select cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.
  • Serve at least one familiar cheese.
  • For a party in which cheese is the main event, plan on buying 3 pounds for 8 people, 6 pounds for 16 or 9 pounds for 24. If cheese is one of many items being served, plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person.
  • Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks and crackers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.
  • Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and caponata. If you have a bit more time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates.
  • Various other sweet and salty items can work as well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples and pears.
  • Separate strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent cheese, place it on a separate plate, so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones. 
  • Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife, firm cheese might require a paring knife and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.
  • Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes the flavor.
  • If you’re serving cheese before dinner, choose lighter cheeses, such as an herb-coated goat cheese or fresh mozzarella.
  • If you’re serving cheese after dinner, then you can go one of two ways — serve just one rich and creamy cheese, such as the easy-to-find triple-crème cheese called St. Andre — or go for full-flavored cheeses like Manchego, Cheddar, Aged Gouda and/or Blue cheeses.
  • Arranging the cheese platter: Never crowd cheeses on the platter or they will be difficult to slice for your guests.

Wine and cheese are a classic combination.

  • Blue cheeses, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola, go well with dessert wines like Sauternes and Ports.
  • To accompany fresh cheeses like a goat or feta, choose a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.
  • Soft-ripened cheeses, like Teleme or Brillat-Savarin, go well with Chardonnay.
  • For aged cheeses, like Cheddar, aged Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano, serve Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Burgundy.

Cheese Appetizers

Focaccia with Pears and Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 large Bosc pear, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking dish.

Transfer the dough to the dish and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

Scatter the cooked onions over the dough. Arrange the pear slices over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cut into small squares for serving as an appetizer.

Smoked Salmon Toasts

Servings: 16

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus 16 small fronds for garnish
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb (about 8 ounces), cored
  • Toast, recipe below
  • 4 ounces sliced cold-smoked salmon, cut into 16 even pieces

Toast

  • 4 slices (about 4-1/2×3-1/2 inches) firm, country bread
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the mascarpone, dill, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the fennel into long, thin strips by pressing firmly against it; season the strips with salt.

To assemble:  spread the toasts with some of the mascarpone and then cut each toast into four even squares.

Top each square with a couple of pieces of the fennel, a curl of the salmon, a dill frond and a few grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with remaining lemon juice.

Make Ahead Tips: You can make the mascarpone spread and cut the fennel several hours in advance. Keep both refrigerated; bring to room temperature before assembling.

Toast

Adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler and turn the broiler on to high. Set the bread on a baking sheet, brush one side with the melted butter. Toast the bread until it’s golden brown and crisp on top, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until golden, about 1 minute. While the bread is still hot, slice off the edges. Let cool slightly. Spread with the toppings before cutting into squares or triangles.

Make Ahead: Toasts can be made up to a day ahead; store them in an airtight container.

Spinach-Cheese Swirls

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix egg and water. Set aside. Mix Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion and garlic powder.

Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface. Brush with egg mixture. Top with cheese mixture and then spinach.

Starting at short side, roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into 20 (1/2 inch) slices. Place on baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 20 appetizers.

Mozzarella Sandwiches with Two Sauces

Makes 12 (antipasto) servings

Ingredients

For anchovy sauce:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 flat anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the marinara sauce:

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Pinch sugar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For mozzarella in carozza:

  • 1 (1-pound) Italian bread loaf, such as pane di casa (5 inches wide)
  • 1 (1-pound) ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 6 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoon milk, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil

Directions

Make anchovy sauce:

Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Discard any foam from top, then remove from heat. Stir in anchovies, capers and lemon juice. Keep warm and covered. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Make marinara sauce:

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep warm. Stir in the basil and parsley just before serving.

Make mozzarella in carrozza:

Cut bread loaf in half. Starting from the middle halves of the loaf, cut bread into 12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices. Sandwich each slice of mozzarella between 2 slices bread, then cut off crusts, forming 4-inch squares (mozzarella slices should be smaller than bread slices).

Put 1 cup milk in a shallow dish and spread flour on a plate. Dip both sides of each sandwich in milk, pressing edges lightly to seal sandwich. Coat with flour, making sure edges are coated well. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill 2 hours.

Whisk eggs in a large shallow bowl, then whisk in 3/4 teaspoons of salt and remaining 3 tablespoons milk.

Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Dip sandwiches, 1 at a time, in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and fry 2- 3 at a time, turning once with a slotted spatula, until golden, about 6 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven set at the lowest temperature.

Cut in half diagonally and serve with anchovy sauce and marinara sauce.

Provolone Pesto Terrine

This recipe comes from my sister, who made it for us many years ago. I don’t know the origin of the recipe but It was a big hit and everyone in the family has the recipe. It is perfect for this season with its Christmas color combination.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup prepared Basil Pesto: see post for a homemade version: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained, blotted dry and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb thin sliced provolone cheese
  • Thin Italian bread slices
  • Cheesecloth, cut large enough to line a loaf pan

Directions

In a food processor combine cream cheese, garlic and white pepper. When smooth and creamy, place in small bowl and fold in pistachios.

Wet cheesecloth and ring dry. Completely line a loaf pan (8×4 inches), letting excess hang over edges.

Cut provolone slices in half. Slightly overlapping slices, line bottom and sides of the pan, extending halfway up. Divide remaining provolone cheese into 3 equal stacks and set aside.

Spread 1/2 of the pesto mixture over the provolone in bottom of the loaf pan. Cover pesto with 1 of the stacks of provolone, overlapping as you go.

Sprinkle cheese with 1/2 of the sun dried tomatoes. On top of that, evenly spread all of the cream cheese mixture, then sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 of the tomatoes.

Cover that with another stack of provolone cheese.

Cover with the remaining pesto, and then cover that with remaining stack of cheese. Fold the cloth over the top of cheese, compact slightly, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, invert onto a serving dish, remove cheesecloth, and garnish with basil and pistachios. Serve with slices of crusty bread.


Flatbread is thin and, in many instances, made without yeast. Many cultures have their own version and it was probably one of the earliest bread products ever made. Some of the oldest examples of food found in tombs and archaeological sites have been flatbreads. They vary widely in size, shape, texture and ingredients.

Unleavened flatbread has a special symbolic role for several religions, especially Judaism. Matzo is a common example and it traditionally takes the form of a rectangular crisp cracker. Tortillas are a softer version, made with corn or flour, depending on the region and the dish. The disparity between these two dishes helps to illustrate the wide range of flatbreads eaten around the world.

Some other examples include chapati, injera, pizza, pita, lavash, puri, barbari, arepas, and naan. Many of these breads are designed to work like eating utensils for scooping up foods from a common serving platter. They can also be wrapped or rolled around foods, stuffed like sandwiches or eaten plain. Almost every culture with access to grain has devised some kind of bread that is flat, made from ingredients, like wheat, teff, corn, rye or rice.

The most basic flatbread is made from ground grain and water. Many cooks also add salt and oil for additional flavoring. Leavened breads may be made with yeast and they may also include eggs in some types. The variants certainly do not stop with the basic recipe, however, and the dough can be mixed with herbs, spices and vegetables, such as dill, thyme, cumin, coriander seed, onions, or garlic.

Kiosk (in Cesena)

In the case of pizza and focaccia, the bread may be topped with a wide variety of ingredients. Piadina is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Romagna region (present-day Emilia-Romagna.). It is usually made with white flour, lard or olive oil, salt and water. The dough was traditionally cooked on a terracotta dish (called teggia), although nowadays flat pans or electric griddles are commonly used. Piadine are usually sold immediately after preparation in specialized kiosks. They can be filled with a variety of cheeses, cold cuts and vegetables and sometimes with sweet fillings, such as jam or Nutella. There may be minor differences in the fillings, depending on the area of production. Piadine produced around Ravenna are generally thicker, while those produced around Rimini and the Marche region are thinner but the diameter is greater.

Flat breads can be stored in several ways: Room temperature: 5 days; Refrigerated: 25 days; Frozen: 6 months – Quality is not compromised when frozen. Thaw at room temperature.

Flatbreads Without Yeast

Skillet Flatbreads

These flatbreads are great for stuffing or rolling around a variety of ingredients, especially cheese and roasted red peppers.

 Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 2 to 3 additional tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Place the flour, baking powder, Italian seasoning and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add the oil and ice water and mix to make a soft, cohesive dough. Adjust with additional flour or water as needed. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet on the stovetop. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until the oil starts to shimmer in the pan.

Divide the dough into 10 to 12 equal pieces. Each piece should weigh about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces, about the size of a large egg. Dredge each piece in flour and roll to a rough circle or oval, about 1/4″ thick or hand shape the pieces by flattening between your palms.

In batches, fry the flatbreads in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn and fry on the second side for another 2 minutes. Or you can put a griddle pan on high heat and cook each flatbread for a couple of minutes per side, until slightly puffy and lightly charred – you’ll need to do this in batches.

Transfer from the pan to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Add more oil as needed for frying successive batches.

Yield: 10 to 12 flatbreads.

Whole Wheat Piadina (Italian Flatbread)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups ice water

Directions:

Combine the ingredients in the order given, one at a time, stirring well between each addition. Knead a bit by hand for the final mix. Work fast to keep the dough tender.

The dough should be soft but easily rolled out. You may need to add a bit of flour or water depending on the weather and the type of flour you are using.

Cut into 10-12 pieces. Roll out thin on an oiled surface. Create disks approximately 8 -10″ round.

Prick the top of the bread with a fork and fry in a lightly oiled skillet or on a grill. These work well on the outdoor grill, if the the grill is well oiled. Good toppings are prosciutto and cheese.

Italian Chickpea Flatbread

This recipe is vegan and gluten free.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour)
  • 3.5 cups fresh cold water
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water gradually as you whisk the flour to keep any lumps from forming. Once all the water has been added, mix until completely smooth. Add the salt and pepper.

Let the mixture stand on the counter for 3 hours or so. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Gently skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the mixture with a slotted spoon.

Prepare a large rimmed cookie sheet by pouring enough olive oil onto the bottom to completely cover the pan.

Once the oven is hot, pour the batter onto the baking pan, making a layer about (1/4) inch deep. Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool before cutting and serving. Pesto makes a great topping for this bread.

Flatbreads Made With Yeast

Grilled Onion and Sage Flatbread

Serve this flatbread as an appetizer or for lunch or dinner with a salad and soup. Use any type of herb that you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red onion, trimmed, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (6 slices)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 12 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Prepare a medium (350°F to 375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the onion slices with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the onion slices until grill marks form on one side, about 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the slices and continue to grill until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes more. Stack the onions on a large piece of foil, wrap the onions up and let them sit for 10 minutes to soften further.

Coarsely chop the onions.

Generously coat a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Oil your hands as well, then evenly press the pizza dough onto the sheet pan all the way to the corners. Using your knuckles, make dimpled depressions in the top of the dough.

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon water; brush the dough with the mixture.

In a medium bowl, toss the sage and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Top the dough with the onion mixture. Bake in the center of the oven until the flatbread and onions are browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Slice and serve.

Carta da Musica/Pane Carasau

Sardinian flatbread is called Pane Carasau.

This Italian flatbread has a crispy, cracker-like texture and is usually seasoned with rosemary and salt. It is also nicknamed “piano paper” or carta da musica which describes it’s thinness. It is said to have been first made by the shepherds in Sardinia, who took it with them into the pastures because it keeps well.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Semolina Flour
  • 1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Salt

To Serve: fresh chopped rosemary, salt and olive oil

Directions:

Combine the two flours with 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a small cup, dissolve the yeast and a 1/4 cup of the warm water. Let sit until bubbly.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour with the rest of the water. Mix until you have a smooth dough. Cover and let sit 1 hour. Knead for 5 minutes and cover for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Spray two flat baking sheets with oil spray. Knead the dough once more and divide into 8 equal balls. Roll each ball out as thinly as you canand place on the baking sheets.

Bake each pan for 5 minutes in the preheated oven.

The breads should blister but not brown. Remove from the oven and pile one on top of the other. Place a board or flat tray on top and let sit until cool.

To prepare for serving,:

Return each bread to the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary and salt and return to the oven for a few minutes. Serve warm.


In ancient mythology, the nine muses and Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, are often depicted with rosemary in their hands. Carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity, rosemary is also a symbol of friendship and loyalty. Through the ages, this aromatic herb has been linked with memory and remembrance. In ancient times, a sprig was often placed in the coffin to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten. In the Middle Ages, it was common to keep some sprigs under the pillow to chase away bad dreams. Additionally, rosemary was used in purification rites and was known for its therapeutic qualities. The ancients believed that when used in moderation, rosemary could be a great digestive tonic and anti-inflammatory booster. To this day, this herb’s refreshing scent makes it a popular element in various health and beauty products.

In Italy you will find as many herbalist shops as you will pharmacies. Italians have been using natural cures and herbal teas for thousands of years. A herbalist must have a special degree in order to prescribe herbal remedies. Herbalists say that rosemary aids in blood circulation and helps fight against fragile capillaries, but it is not recommended for those with high blood pressure. In addition to its long and colorful legacy, rosemary has been an important ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine for centuries.

Rosemary growing wild in the Italian countryside.

A perennial plant from the Lamiaceae family, rosmarino is a familiar sight in the Italian countryside, growing in the wild throughout Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean regions. The botanical name, Rosmarinus officinalis, is derived from the old Latin term meaning “dew of the sea,” probably referring to its pale blue flowers and the fact that it often grows near the sea. The fresh leaves – thin, spiky, evergreen needles – have a particularly potent fragrance and flavor.

In Italy, rosemary is predominantly used to flavor roasted and grilled meats, poultry and fish. It is often coupled with garlic, wine and vinegar. When grilling, it’s a great idea to first marinate the meat in rosemary, sage, bay leaves, thyme, pepper and olive oil; then, just prior to cooking, sprinkle rosemary leaves and branches directly on the hot charcoal or in a grill box for a gas grill. The wonderful aroma of the burning herb will permeate whatever you are grilling.

Rosemary is often used in vegetable preparations – particularly, roasted potatoes and mushrooms. Cannellini beans are also enhanced by this herb. Rosemary is one of the five herbs comprising a bouquet garni – the bundle of fresh herbs used in stocks and stews. Unlike many other aromatic herbs, rosemary does not lose its flavor by long cooking. Another notable use of rosemary – alone or with other herbs – is to flavor olive oil.

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Fresh rosemary is now available at most grocery stores. You’ll often see it in packages of 4- to 5-inch sprigs or as bundles of long, straight branches. Be sure the leaves look fresh, green and pliable, not dry, brittle or blackened. Store rosemary in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp dishtowel for up to one week.

Homemade Infused Oil

Homemade infused oils are a great way to add an extra shot of flavor to your cooking, salads and marinades. They make perfect gifts for food lovers and serious cooks. Good flavorings to use include fresh herbs, garlic, whole spices, pink peppercorns or dried chilies.

Infused oils have the potential to support the growth of bacteria, so you should follow the procedures for bottling flavored oils carefully and make sure that any ingredients you use are washed and thoroughly dried first. Use pretty recycled bottles or jars for these oils.

Ingredients:

Use one of the following:

  • 1 large sprig (about 6 in.) of rosemary
  • 3-4 large ribbons of lemon peel
  • 3-4 whole chilies

2 cups light olive oil

Bottles or jars for storing

Directions:

It’s important to sterilize all bottles or jars and their lids before adding any ingredients. The dishwasher does a great job or after hand washing, place them upside down in a cold oven and heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Leave the bottles in the oven for 10–15 minutes. Place them upside down on a clean cloth until you are ready to use them, so dust or dirt, which could contaminate the oils, can’t be trapped inside. Alternatively, you can boil the bottles in a large saucepan covered with water for 15 minutes, dry them thoroughly with a fresh clean cloth and turn them upside down on another cloth until they are ready to be used.

Make the flavored oil a week before you want to give it as a gift. For rosemary oil, bruise a large sprig of fresh rosemary with the end of a rolling pin. For lemon oil use 3-4 large ribbons of lemon peel and for chili oil use 3-4 whole chilies cut in half lengthwise.

Put your choice of dry ingredients into a clear, sterilized glass bottle (at least 2 cups in capacity) and add 2 cups of light olive oil. Make sure the dry ingredients stay below the surface of the oil or they may turn moldy.

Secure the lid firmly and shake well once a day for a week to allow the flavors to develop. Add a gift label with instructions to store the oil in the refrigerator and use within a week.

Easy Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Topping:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh rosemary chopped
  • Sea Salt
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

To make the dough:

Mix the water and olive oil with the dry yeast (you’re looking to dissolve the yeast) in a medium bowl or measuring cup. Thoroughly mix the remaining dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and add the yeast mixture. With the paddle attachment mix for 2-3 minutes. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes; you’re looking for a fluffy/not too dense dough. 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 30-45 minutes or until it doubles in size.

To make the focaccia:

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a 10 by 15 inch cookie sheet and thoroughly coat the bottom with the oil. Stretch the dough on your cookie sheet (you’re looking for a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch). Next, create dimples in the dough with your fingertips and drizzle a bit more olive on the dough. Next, add fresh rosemary and sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes, depending on how thin or thick your dough is. You’re looking for a golden brown top and a somewhat crunchy bottom.

Italian Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups kale, minced
  • 1 15 oz can diced low sodium tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 15 oz cans low sodium navy beans, drained
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Using 5 tablespoons of broth, saute onion, carrot and celery in large soup pot over medium low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.

Add the rest of the chicken or vegetable broth, the kale and tomatoes.

Simmer for 30 minutes over medium heat.

Add beans, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, so beans can heat through.

Mustard & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

These potatoes start out looking very wet, but the mixture cooks down to leave the potatoes crisp and tangy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry vermouth or other dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch dice

Serves four to six.

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, vermouth, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.

Pour the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.

Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are brown on the outside and tender, 50 to 55 minutes. Serve hot. 

Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme

Roasted in an herb-infused oil, the shrimp turn pink and fragrant in just a few minutes minutes.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs, halved
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1-1/2 lbs shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), preferably wild from the US, peeled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

Pour the oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Add the thyme, rosemary and black and red pepper and bake until the oil mixture is fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the dish and toss with tongs until coated. Bake the shrimp until just pink and firm, 7-8 minutes.

Add the vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss well, and let rest at room temperature until the oil cools slightly, about 5 minutes and serve.

Serve the shrimp with rice and sautéed broccoli raab. 

Italian Style Roast Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork loin, about 4-1/2 pounds
  • 4-5 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut about a dozen slits all over the pork, making some deep and some shallow.

Finely chop rosemary leaves and garlic together. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in some salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture with a little olive oil to hold the rosemary and garlic together. Using your fingertip, insert a small amount of mixture into each slit in the pork, pushing mixture to the bottom of each slit.

Place the butter in a shallow roasting pan and put it into the oven to melt; spread butter around pan evenly. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped onion over the melted butter. Place the pork loin directly on top of the onions; do not use a roasting rack. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the pork and add wine to the pan.

Roast, uncovered, basting with the wine about every 20 minutes for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Transfer the pork to a carving board and let rest 10-15 minutes before carving.

Grilled Tuscan Chicken 

Basting the chicken with lemon juice while it’s on the grill gives it a tangy taste. For the marinade, steeping the rosemary in hot water intensifies the flavor of the herb.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 or 10 serving pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Sliced lemon for garnish

Directions:

Heat grill to medium. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup water and rosemary to a boil; remove from heat, cover and let steep 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender. Add oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth; let cool.

Combine chicken and pureed rosemary oil in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag and turn to coat. Cover and let marinate at least 15 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, turning chicken occasionally.

Remove chicken from marinade; place on grill. Discard marinade. Cook, basting frequently with lemon juice and turning as needed to prevent burning, until cooked throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.


Party Tips

The Super Bowl has grown over the years to be so much more than just a championship game. You may not have tickets to the game, but look on the bright side — unlike the fans in the stadium — you’ll be able to see all the cool new multi-million-dollar commercials that debut during the game! Throwing a successful Super Bowl party can be a breeze with some easy planning, so you can ensure that your guests have a good time and you don’t miss a second of the big game.

Make sure you have plenty of comfortable seating in the television viewing area, as well as, things like snack trays, paper towels and napkins and even card tables for putting out snacks. Move breakables to another room so that nothing gets knocked over when all the jumping and shouting begins. Consider protecting surfaces with tablecloths or runners—you can’t expect screaming fans to remember to use a coaster!

Beer and football go hand-in-hand. Make sure the party is stocked with beverages from beers to soft drinks. Also, take into account that many avid football fans get glued to the television and sometimes won’t leave the couch at any cost. Consider placing a cooler in the living room, so they don’t have to make repeated trips to the refrigerator. So important, yet so often forgotten, make sure to grab a few bags of ice from the supermarket, particularly if you’re going to keep beverages in a cooler. Nothing can ruin a Super Bowl party faster than a lukewarm beer.

This party shouldn’t be fancy. Finger foods are the key and give your guests plenty of options, like crackers, dips, salsas and a make-your-own-sandwich tray with cold cuts and cheeses. Your chips need to be accessible to a lot of hands grabbing for them at once. Pick up some big, cheap plastic bowls. Football is a long game and your guests aren’t going to get tired of eating. Consider using a crock pot to keep queso and dips soft for hours, rather than letting them harden up. Make sure to make up a vegetable platter, too. Party foods can be really delicious without being loaded with fat.

It is almost guaranteed that there will be people at your party, who haven’t watched a game all year. If you know that some guests couldn’t care less about the game, set aside an area just for them. If you have an extra TV, set it up in your dining room for viewing other programs and serve drinks and snacks there as well. Consider running a “Sex and the City” marathon or episodes of the “Real Housewives” series in anticipation of the event. That way, guests can wander in and out to chat and check out what’s going on in the different rooms—and everyone will have a good time!

Sample Party Menu

Snacks

Sweet and Smoky Nuts

Chips with Creamy Salsa Dip

Chipotle Kettle Corn

Vegetable Tray and Four-Onion Dip

Cheese and Cracker Tray

Half Time Entrees

Stuffed Sausage Sliders

Spicy Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Italian Focaccia Sandwiches

Breaded Eggplant Sandwiches

Drinks

Beer

Red & White Wine

Non-Alcoholic Drink Options

Dessert

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Recipes

Sweet and Smoky Nuts

Pour the crunchy nut snack into paper cones for mess-free single servings that look more sophisticated than a generic snack bowl.

Makes: 16 servings; 4 cups

Serving size: ¼ cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup whole almonds or hazelnuts (filberts)
  • 1 cup pecan or walnut halves
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk egg white until foamy. Add peanuts, almonds, and pecans; toss gently to coat. Stir in brown sugar, paprika, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Spread nuts in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until nuts are toasted and appear dry, stirring twice. Remove from oven and stir again. Cool completely in baking pan. Break up any large clusters.

MAKE-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Chipotle Kettle Corn

Yield: 16 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup popcorn kernels

Directions:

In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, cumin and chipotle pepper. Heat the oil in an 8-quart pan over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn and cook, shaking occasionally, 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture. Cover and cook, shaking often, until popcorn begins to pop. Once popcorn begins to pop, shake continuously until the popping slows. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully pour into a large bowl (popcorn will be very hot).

Place remaining sugar mixture in a shaker jar. Sprinkle some on the popped corn and pass remaining. Makes 16 cups.

Microwave version:

Prepare sugar mixture as above. One at a time, pop two 3.3-ounce bags microwave kettle corn. Immediately after popping pour into a very large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining bag of popcorn and 2 more tablespoons of sugar mixture. Pass remaining sugar mixture as above. Makes 20 (1-cup) servings.

Creamy Garlic Salsa Dip

Creamy Salsa Dip

Serve with Chips

Ingredients:

  • one 8-ounce block reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Combine the cream cheese, cheddar and salsa in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave (covered), or over low heat over a burner, until the cheese is soft and the salsa has started to bubble a bit.

Remove from the heat, and stir until well combined. Store in the refrigerator (covered once it’s cool) until ready to serve.

Four-Onion Dip

Serve with raw vegetables for dippers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons dehydrated minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1 medium green onion (green and white parts), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 2 tablespoons shredded carrot
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free onion-and-herb seasoning blend, such as Mrs. Dash
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red hot-pepper sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the dehydrated onion and water. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Stir in the rehydrated onion. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to two days. The dip will thicken during the refrigeration time.

Stuffed Sausage Sliders

16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small apple
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 pounds lean ground pork
  • 3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese or smoked provolone cheese (2 to 3 ounces)
  • 16-2 inches buns, rolls, or biscuits, sliced in half
  • Toppings: Sliced onion, thin slices of apple, coleslaw, mustard sauce

Directions:

Peel and shred enough of the apple to measure 1/3 cup. In a large bowl combine the 1/3 cup apple, oil, garlic, pepper, fennel seeds, salt, thyme, and nutmeg. Add ground pork; mix well.

Shape a scant 1/4 cup pork mixture into a ball and use your finger to make a deep indentation in top. Fill indentation with 2 teaspoons cheese; press pork mixture to enclose filling. Reshape pork mixture into a ball and flatten into a 2 1/2-inch-diameter patty. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pork mixture and cheese. Cover and chill for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat broiler. Remove patties from the refrigerator. Place patties on the unheated rack of a greased broiler pan. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 9 to 11 minutes or until patties are done (160 degrees F), turning patties once halfway through broiling.

Serve patties on slider buns and let guests add the condiments.

Spicy Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

8 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 pounds chicken wings and/or small chicken drumsticks
  • Fresh Mint (optional)
  • Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, recipe below

Directions:

Combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, curry, salt, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne in a bowl; let stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If using chicken wings cut each wing into two portions at the first joint. Place wings and/or drumsticks into a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish; pour on yogurt mixture. Seal and chill 6 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drain chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Line two 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pans with foil; lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange chicken in prepared pans (if using both drumsticks and wings, place them on separate pans. Bake small drumsticks for 35 minutes; bake chicken wings 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (170 degrees F). Cool chicken slightly. Transfer to storage containers; cover and chill overnight.

To serve:

Remove chicken from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before serving.

Preheat broiler. Broil directly on a greased pan 5-6 inches from the heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through, turning once. Transfer chicken to platter; top with mint. Serve with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2-6 ounce cartons plain yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber, shredded and well-drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil or mint
  • Curry powder

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, salt, ground cumin and fresh basil or mint; mix well. Refrigerate 1 to 4 hours before serving. Sprinkle lightly with curry powder before serving.

Italian Focaccia Sandwiches

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-6 ounce jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red sweet peppers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted ripe olives
  • 1 12-inch round Italian flatbread (focaccia)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced capicola*
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced salami*
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced mortadella or ham*
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced provolone

Directions

The day before:

Drain artichoke hearts and roasted peppers; pat dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop artichokes and roasted peppers; pat dry again. In a small bowl combine artichokes, roasted peppers and olives; set aside.

Cut focaccia in half horizontally. Layer the bottom with capicola, salami and mortadella. Spoon artichoke mixture over meat; top with cheese. Replace top of focaccia. Tightly wrap sandwich in foil and chill overnight.

Party day:

Bring sandwiches to room temperature and cut into eight wedges. 

*Applegate Farms makes healthy cold cuts.

 

Vegetarian Option: Breaded Eggplant Sandwiches

6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 medium eggplant, peel if desired
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 12 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick), toasted

Directions:

Combine the basil, oil, oregano, pepper and salt; set aside. Place egg whites and bread crumbs each in separate shallow bowls.

Cut eggplant lengthwise into six slices. Dip slices in egg whites; then coat in crumbs.

Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° F. for 20-25 minutes or until tender and golden brown, turning once.

Cut each tomato into six slices; place two slices on each eggplant slice. Spoon reserved basil mixture over tomatoes and sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Place each eggplant stack on a slice of bread and top with remaining bread.

Non-Alcoholic Honey-Ginger Limeade

8 servings

ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2-3-inch strips lime peel
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice, reserve lime halves
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 liter bottle sparkling water, chilled
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh ginger slices

Directions:

In a small saucepan combine 2 cups of the water and the finely chopped ginger. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime peel. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain into a pitcher; discard solids.

Add brown sugar and honey to ginger liquid in pitcher, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in lime juice, jalapeno pepper (if desired), and the remaining 1 cup water. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours (up to 3 days).

Before serving, add the reserved squeezed lime halves to pitcher. Slowly pour sparkling water into ginger liquid in pitcher; stir gently to mix. Serve in brown sugar-rimmed glasses over ice cubes. Garnish with lime wedges and ginger slices.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

You may need to double this recipe, depending on the number of guests you are planning to serve.

Ingredients:

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon. salt
• 3 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 70% cocoa), chopped into chunks or chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the large electric mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugars until combined. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the chocolate.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 1½ inches between cookies to allow for spreading. Bake until the cookies are just set, about 12 minutes. Transfer the cookies on parchment to a rack and allow to cool. The cookies will crisp as they cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, where they will keep for up to 4 days.

Yield: about 20 cookies

 


Honey is as old as written history, dating back to 2100 B.C. where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite code, and the sacred writings of India and Egypt. It is presumably even older than that. It is not entirely clear but about 4000 BC, the Egyptians started keeping bees in a cylinder of unbaked hardened mud pots, stacking them in rows to form a bank. Some beekeepers in Egypt moved their hives on rafts down the Nile, following the blossoms. The Greeks modified the Egyptian design by baking the mud into a sturdier terra cotta. (1450 BC). Another design using hollow logs hung from trees and is still used in Africa today. Others include woven cylinders, woven skeps and rectangular boxes made from wood. The theme is all the same, a long low cavity with a small entrance hole at one end and a door at the other. One of the earliest evidence of honey harvesting is on a rock painting dating back 8000 years, this one found in Valencia, Spain shows a honey seeker robbing a wild bee colony. The bees were subdued with smoke and the tree or rocks opened resulting in destruction of the colony.

“Man of Bicor.” c. 15,000 BC. Cueva de la Arana, Valencia, Spain

Honey is an organic, natural sugar with no additives that is easy on the stomach, adapts to all cooking processes, and has an indefinite shelf-life. Its name comes from the English hunig, and it was the first and most widespread sweetener used by man. Legend has it that Cupid dipped his love arrows in honey before aiming at unsuspecting lovers.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, Israel was often referred to as “the land of milk and honey”.  Mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey was called “nectar of the gods” . The Romans used honey to heal their wounds after battles. Hannibal, a great warrior, gave his army honey and vinegar as they crossed the Alps on elephants to battle Rome. Honey was valued highly and often used as a form of currency, tribute, or offering. In the 11th. century A.D., German peasants paid their feudal lords in honey and beeswax.

Although experts argue whether the honey bee is native to the Americas, conquering Spaniards in 1600 A.D. found native Mexicans and Central Americans had already developed beekeeping methods to produce honey. Honey has been used not only in food and beverages, but also to make cement, furniture polishes and varnishes, and for medicinal purposes.

It was in Europe where apiculture made its greatest advances in development and bee biology. Even further advancements were made in 1851, when Rev. Langstroth from Philadelphia designed the Langstroth movable bee frame. The ability of the honey bee to survive has been remarkable. It has been able to adapt to the harsh environments of the world living in regions where man lives, from the equator to beyond the Arctic Circle. Most of the domestic honey bees have descended from a small number of queens from their original countries – that is Europe and Africa –  and in these regions the honey bee has survived through natural selection processes. If honey bees were to disappear from the planet, man would have just 4 years until serious food shortages would result. The pollination services that bees provide are numerous. Think about the fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and legumes we eat. Most of these are pollinated by the bee.

Honey Trivia

• Honeybees must tap over two million flowers to make one pound of honey, flying a distance equal to more than three times around the world.

• The average worker bee will make only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime.

• The famous Scottish liqueur, Drambuie, is made with honey.

Italian Honey

Italian Bee – Apis Mellifera var. Ligustica Spinola

Originally from the Apennine Peninsula in Italy, the true Italian breed is the Ligustica. There are 3 yellow bands on the abdomen of the Ligustica and 4 or 5 bands on the Italian. These bees are usually gentle to manage,  winter well and build up their numbers quickly in spring. Their proficient breeding ability during periods of little or no honey flow often results in depletion of their honey stores and, as a result, they have a tendency toward swarming.

Today, in Italian cuisine, honey is mostly used in sweets, from pastries to torrone, and in traditional sweets like panforte and fritters. Honey is a favored ingredient in southern Italian cuisine due to the strong influence of the Arabs in this area, whose palates have a preference for sweet and sour combinations. A spoonful of honey can sweeten a glass of tea, turn a plain piece of bread into a treat, glaze barbecued spareribs, or serve as the basis for a salad dressing.

Types of Italian Honey

Orange Blossom Honey of Sicily

Orange blossom honey crystallizes a few months after having been gathered and is very light, almost white in color. The intense fragrance is reminiscent of orange blossoms, while the flavor is a fusion of aromas recalling both the flower and the fruit. Excellent in sweets or mixed with yogurt, it is just as good spread on bread or used to sweeten tea.

Chestnut Honey from Calabria

Chestnut honey is rich in fructose and crystallizes only after a long time. Dark in color, ranging from brown to black, it has a strong, intense smell, woody and slightly tannic (due to the tannin in the tree). Grains of chestnut pollen, can be found in the honey. The flavor is not very sweet and, with an almost bitter aftertaste, highly appreciated by those who are not fond of sweets. It is a perfect honey for delicious contrasts, splendid with aged cheeses or hearty meat dishes.

Acacia Honey from the Prealps (the foothills of the Italian Alps)

Acacia honey, one of the clearest in color, remains liquid regardless of the temperature or its freshness (it very rarely crystallizes). The fragrance is light, the flavor delicate and very sweet, with a hint of vanilla. A honey universally liked, it is particularly suitable for use as sweetener since it does not change the taste of the substances it is added to.

Eucalyptus Honey from Sardinia

Eucalyptus honey has a color that ranges from light amber to beige with grayish tones. Its fragrance is intense, distinctive and recognizable, and the flavor recalls the taste of caramel, but is more refined. This is a special honey, excellent as a table honey for those who like its taste.

Millefiori Honey from Tuscany

Millefiori honey from Tuscany has as many subtle tones of taste. Each millefiori honey has a special taste, fragrance, and color. A lover of this honey can become a true connoisseur of it, and learn to recognize the variations it takes on from one season to another, because a millefiori honey is a summary of all of the different components of a landscape. The more varied is its nature, encompassing a range of plants and flowers, the more complex and rich will be its overall aroma.

American Honey

There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different plant source. I am listing some of the more common ones in this post due to space limitations. As a general rule, the flavor of lighter colored honeys is milder and the flavor of darker colored honeys is stronger.

ALFALFA

Alfalfa honey, produced extensively throughout Canada and the United States from the purple blossoms, is light in color with a pleasingly mild flavor and aroma.

AVOCADO

Avocado honey is gathered from California avocado blossoms. Avocado honey is dark in color, with a rich, buttery taste.

BLUEBERRY

Taken from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush, the nectar makes a honey which is typically light amber in color and with a full, well-rounded flavor. Blueberry honey is produced in New England and in Michigan.

BUCKWHEAT

Buckwheat honey is dark and full-bodied. It is produced in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as in eastern Canada. Buckwheat honey has been found to contain more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys.

CLOVER

Clover honey has a pleasing, mild taste. Clovers contribute more to honey production in the United States than any other group of plants. Red clover, Alsike clover and the white and yellow sweet clovers are most important for honey production. Depending on the location and type of source of clover, clover honey varies in color from water white to light amber to amber.

EUCALYPTUS

Eucalyptus honey comes from over 500 distinct species and many hybrids. As may be expected with a diverse group of plants, eucalyptus honey varies greatly in color and flavor but tends to be a stronger flavored honey with a slight medicinal scent. It is produced in California.

FIREWEED

Fireweed honey is light in color and comes from a perennial herb from the Northern and Pacific states and Canada. Fireweed grows in the open woods, reaching a height of three to five feet and spikes pinkish flowers.

ORANGE BLOSSOM

Orange blossom honey, often a combination of citrus sources, is usually light in color and mild in flavor with a fresh scent and light citrus taste. Orange blossom honey is produced in Florida, Southern California and parts of Texas.

SAGE

Sage honey, primarily produced in California, is light in color, heavy bodied and has a mld flavor. It is extremely slow to granulate, making it a favorite among honey packers for blending with other honeys to slow down granulation.

TUPELO

Tupelo honey is a premium honey produced in northwest Florida. It is heavy bodied and is usually light golden amber with a greenish cast and has a mild, distinctive taste. Because of the high fructose content in Tupelo honey, it granulates very slowly.

WILDFLOWER

Wildflower honey is often used to describe honey from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources.

Read Kathy Siler’s (a Michigan beekeeper) description of the process of harvesting honey and reaping its benefits: http://blog.mlive.com/freshfood/2012/12/the_bees_are_in_their_huddles.html

 

Recipes Using Honey

 

Honey Pizza Dough or Focaccia Bread

Servings: 4   

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                                                                    

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast ( or 1 package)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sauce and toppings of choice

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in ¼ cup warm water (100-110 degrees).

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and the salt.

Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup water, mix on low speed until dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.

If the dough is still sticky, then simply add a bit more flour until it pulls cleanly away from the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 2 or 3 minutes.The dough should be smooth and firm.

Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for about 30-45 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).

Take dough out of bowl and divide into either 1 or 2 balls, depending on whether you want 1 large pizza or 2 small.

Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times.

Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rest 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, the dough can be used or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

To make pizzas, stretch the dough out onto a greased pizza pan, top with sauce and toppings, and bake at 450 degrees F. for 20 minutes, until done. (Smaller pizzas will take less time).

For Focaccia Bread

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt — 2 teaspoons
  • Fresh rosemary — 1 tablespoon
  • chopped garlic to taste, optional

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a medium-sized baking dish and place the dough in the pan. Use your hands to push the dough out to the sides of the pan so that it fully and evenly covers the bottom. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Use your fingers to press dimpled indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough all over with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle with the sea salt, the rosemary and garlic if using.

Set the baking pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

 

Italian Honey Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about one small bunch)
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, good quality
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, good quality
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey

Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and process to blend completely.

 

Italian Honey Orange Chicken

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 chickens, 3 lbs each, cut up (or 6 lbs chicken pieces)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger, or 3/4 tsp ground ginger, or to taste
  • Fresh orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Directions

Grease a large roasting pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper

Whisk together hot water, orange juice, honey and ginger in a bowl.

Place the chicken in the greased roasting pan and cover the chicken evenly with the honey orange liquid.

Cover the pan with foil and let it roast in the oven for 45 minutes, basting occasionally.

Uncover the dish after 45 minutes and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Let the chicken continue to roast for 10-20 minutes longer, basting every few minutes, until the skin is brown.

Serve on a platter garnished with fresh orange wedges, if desired.

Mascarpone Tart with Honey, Oranges, and Pistachios

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • Whole Wheat Pie Crust, recipe below
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1- 8 to 8.8-ounce container chilled mascarpone cheese*
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup honey, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Make pie crust according to baked crust instructions below. Bake according to instructions.

Cool completely on rack.

Meanwhile, grate enough orange peel to measure 1 1/4 teaspoons. Cut off remaining peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges into thin rounds, then cut rounds crosswise in half. Place orange slices on paper towels to drain slightly.

Combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, 3 tablespoons honey, cardamom, and orange peel in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat just until blended and peaks form (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle). Spread filling evenly in cooled crust. Arrange orange slices on top tart in concentric circles; sprinkle with pistachios. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon honey and serve.

*Italian cream cheese; available at many supermarkets and Italian markets.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 5 tablespoon trans-free vegetable shortening

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours, honey and the salt. Add the shortening and with a pastry blender cut the shortening into the flour. You can also quickly use your fingers to break up the shortening and form a coarse dough. Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until a moist dough forms. You’ll use 5 to 6 tablespoons water.

For a filled crust: Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a floured piece of wax paper or a pastry cloth. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Crimp the edge with the tines of a fork. Freeze for 10 minutes before baking.

For a baked crust: Prepare the dough as for a filled crust. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake in a 450ºF. oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

 


Soup and sandwich pairings are a great go-to choice when you’re looking for warm, comforting meals in a hurry. You can make delicious soups and substantial sandwiches that are tastier, healthier, and cheaper than eating out or picking up fast food meals.

While you might think of sandwiches or soup as just for lunch, they are a good dinner choice when you get home after a hectic day. Sandwiches are endlessly versatile—you can pile lots of delicious, healthy toppings on whole-grain bread and many hearty soups can come together in 30 minutes or less with just a little advance planning.


How To Keep Sandwiches Healthy:

Better Choices:

Bread

Pick a bread with has three to five grams of fiber per serving

  • High-fiber whole wheat bread
  • High protein bread
  • Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories)
  • Reduced calorie bread
  • Multi-grain bread

Proteins

  • Lean deli meats preferably without nitrates : Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef or homemade meatloaf
  • Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini or vegetarian patties
  • Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad made with low-fat dressing

Cheese

  • Harder cheeses (such as Swiss and Cheddar) usually have less fat.
  • Softer cheeses (like light cream cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese

Condiments

  • Mustard, nonfat salad dressings, salsa, and nonfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
  • Avoid high-fat salad dressings, regular mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.

Vegetables.

A sandwich is a great way to slip vegetables into a meal. 

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cucumbers or pickles
  • Onions: Sweet, hot, or red
  • Peppers: sweet or hot
  • Lettuce
  • Apples or pears (especially good with ham and turkey)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Herbs (Basil with toasted cheese and tomato)

How To Keep Soups Healthy:

Fat

Most soups begin with a fat, such as oil, to saute vegetables and bring out their flavor. Fat isn’t always unhealthy; monounsaturated fats can help improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and can help improve your blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature: Peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil and olive oil are healthy choices. Always use the least amount of oil as possible in your cooking. I believe that you never need more than 1 tablespoon of oil in a recipe to saute ingredients.

Soup Base

In high-sodium soups, the base is often a salty stock. Keep the sodium low by using a salt-free stock. Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stock often are available in salt-free varieties. Canned low sodium tomatoes are readily available and make a fine base for soup on its own or mixed with stock, depending on how thick you want the broth. Milk or fat free half works for creamy soups. Do not add salt or use full-sodium broth. There are 860 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of full-sodium chicken stock and only 72 milligrams in low-sodium chicken stock. If you add 1 teaspoon of salt to the base, you increase the soup’s sodium content by 2,325 milligrams.

Protein and Fiber

Most soups include a source of protein, either meat or legumes. Legumes are also an excellent source of fiber. Lean beef, chicken, pork, turkey or fish are good choices. For legumes, don’t choose a sodium canned variety — they can have as much as 818 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. There are many no salt added canned beans in the markets today. Almost any legume works in soup. For additional fiber, add whole grains, such as barley, quinoa or brown rice, all of which are low-sodium. If your soup recipe has noodles, choose a whole grain variety. In addition, use only fresh — not canned — veggies to avoid excess sodium. Onions, carrots, garlic, celery, corn, spinach, kale and potatoes are good choices for soup.

Seasoning

The seasonings make lower sodium soup tasty. They complement the flavor of the other ingredients and finish your soup. Add seasonings to taste — stir, taste and then add more if necessary. Most spices and herbs do not contain sodium. Provided it does not have added salt, any seasoning works. Rosemary, thyme and marjoram make a tasty combination, so do chili powder and cumin. Parsley and basil complement almost any type of soup.

Quick Soups and Healthy Sandwiches  

Vegetable Beef Barley

Saute 1 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; drain fat.

Add 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Warm Prosciutto-Stuffed Focaccia

 

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-ounce) round loaf focaccia bread, whole grain if possible
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette

 Directions:

Cut bread in half horizontally, using a serrated knife. Top bottom bread half with prosciutto and next 3 ingredients.

Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette; cover with top bread half. Wrap in aluminum foil; place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until warm. Cut focaccia into six wedges. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Many markets sell butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes in the produce section of the market, usually next to the cut up fruit.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 and 1/2 pounds after trimming)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat free half half

Directions:

Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in awhile. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée the soup with a hand blender and add the half and half. Warm gently, and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
  • 2 cups arugula

Directions:

Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.

Crab Chowder                                                                                              

6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup cored fennel bulb, finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups diced red potatoes, unpeeled
  • 28 oz container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 pound pasteurized crabmeat

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crabmeat and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt

 Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 small)
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli turkey breast
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread one side of each of 4 bread slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.

Place one cheese slice on dressed side of bread slices; top each with 5 apple slices and 2 ounces turkey. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices.

Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan.

Cook 2 minutes on each side or until bread is browned and cheese melts.

Black Bean Soup 

Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add one 32 oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, 1- 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, two 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, and one 1.4-ounce can diced green chili peppers. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon light sour cream. Garnish with baked tortilla chips.

Avocado Tomato Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches), room temperature
  •  Lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced Avocado Tomato Wraps
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mash a fourth of the avocado with a fork; spread over tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato and remaining avocado.

Sprinkle with cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper; roll up. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.


View of Genoa on a painting from 1482.

Genova (Italian for Genoa) is the capital of the province of Liguria located in northwest Italy. Genova or Genoa  is Italy’s principal seaport. The city makes a good base or starting point for exploring the villages on the Italian Riviera. It a popular destination for tourists due to the area’s mild climate, the charm of its old fishing ports and the beauty of its landscapes. Many villages and towns in the area are internationally known, such as Portofino, Bordighera, Lerici, and the Cinque Terre.

Genoa was founded in the 6th century B.C. by Phoenician and Etruscan sailors due to its good location and naturally formed port. It remained a very important port throughout its history. In 209 B.C. Genoa was destroyed by the Carthaginians and was rebuilt by the Romans. During the Roman Empire era, Genoa was a major shipping  port for goods made locally. After the downfall of the Roman Empire, Genoa became an independent city. In the 11th century, a short-lived alliance between Genoa and Pisa took control over Sicily and Corsica. Later, the two cities waged war against each other for the control of the two islands and Genoa defeated Pisa. After this, the merchants governing Genoa had power comparable only to the Pope and the kings of the European states. During the Crusades, Genoa’s wealth and strength continued to grow and expand and. as a result, they were able to acquire more possessions and trading privileges. In 1408, a group of merchants, who were providing much of Genoa’s defense and expansion funds, formed the Banco San Giorgio (a powerful bank.)

The expansion of Genoa caused regional wars for control of the city.  As a result, the Genovese fleet was destroyed by the Venetians and this lead to the weakening of Genoa. The wars ended in 1528 and Genoa became a ship building port and bank center. A symbol of the city, the Lanterna, was rebuilt in 1543 and the yellow light beamed to 36 nautical miles in clear weather. Though Genoa was dominated by nearby countries, like France, it kept its independence until 1797. At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte organized the Republic of Liguria and unified it to France in 1805.  Ten years later, Genoa was united with the Kingdom of Sardinia and this country played a very important role in the unification of Italy, since the king of the Kingdom of Sardinia, Victor Emanuel II, became the king of Italy.

The port of Genoa was heavily damaged during WW II and, again, by heavy storms in 1954-55.  Soon after, the port was rebuilt and modernized. Although Genoa is a chief seaport, it is also a center for commercialization and industry. Among its leading industries are chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles, locomotives, ships, petroleum, airplanes and steel. These industries have declined somewhat in recent years and the city is relying more on service-oriented businesses and tourism for revenue.

Some great places to see in Genoa are the Palace of the Doges, the medieval Church of San Donato, the Carlo Felice Opera House (dating back to the 19th century), the 16th century churches of St. Ambrose and the Annunciation, as well as, other Renaissance palaces and buildings. Walls and forts are abundant throughout the city and the narrow streets of the harbor area are intriguing. One popular attraction is the lighthouse called Lanterna, mentioned above. This lighthouse is an important “landmark” for Genoa. In 1992, Renzo Piano was credited for redesigning the Old Port. A modern aquarium and a tropical greenhouse are located there. Genoa has a university, which was founded in 1243, and a few museums. Genoa’s maritime presence is still very strong, which can be sensed throughout the entire area. “The Regatta of the Ancient Sea Republics”, involves Genoa, Pisa, Venice and Amalfi in a yearly navigational competition. The regatta rotates among the four areas and occurs every fourth year in Genoa.  

Every two years Genoa hosts the Pesto World Championship in the city’s historic Palazzo Ducale, where one hundred competitors from all over the world meet to make their pesto recipe in order to gain the title of Pesto World Champion. The participants are both professional cooks and amateurs who compete by preparing pesto sauces using only authentic ingredients and traditional recipes. The pesto sauces are then judged by tasters ranging from restaurant owners and expert cooks to food and wine journalists.

Sergio Muto is the 2012 winner of the Genoa Pesto World Championship. He’s 58 years old, born in Cosenza (Calabria, Italy) and living in Germany since 1976, where he manages a delicatessen.

Click on this Photo Gallery of Genova for more views of the city.
http://www.genova-italia.com/gallery01_en.php

The Food Of Genova

The first recipe identified in print as Genovese was for Torta alla Genovese (a sort of pie filled with apples, dates, raisins, and pulverized almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts) appearing in 1520, not in an Italian book, but in a Catalan-language cookbook by Robert Mestre, chef to the king of Naples. In the centuries that followed, Genoa’s culinary sophistication grew. Local cooks developed some of Europe’s most savory preparations for tripe, stockfish (which is dried cod) and stuffed vegetables. They refined such Italian specialties as minestrone, ravioli, focaccia, and, of course, basil pesto. However, with the possible exception of ravioli (whose filling can include a dozen or more ingredients, some as exotic as calf’s spinal marrow and heifer’s udder), these recipes utilize common ingredients . Genoa developed a number of more complicated local dishes, primarily because it could afford to, and because it had access, through its widespread trade, to ingredients from many parts of the world. (One example: The Genovese are the only Italians who regularly use walnuts in savory dishes—a habit they might well have imported from their Black Sea outposts.

The cuisine of Genoa is based on traditional Mediterranean cooking and very rich in ingredients and flavors. The Ligurians use very simple ingredients, which by themselves may seem insignificant, but when combined together, they accentuate and bring out each ingredient’s individual qualities to produce superb flavor and  harmony. At the base of all recipes is Ligurian olive oil, delicately flavored and perfect for preparing sauces. The most famous of these is pesto, a sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Some other well-known sauces from this region are salsa verde, a green sauce made of parsley and pine nuts for grilled meat, and salsa di noci, a walnut sauce that goes perfectly over pasta and ravioli.

Different kinds of focaccia and torte salate (a vegetable and cheese pie) are characteristically Genovese. These dishes are eaten as main entrees, appetizers or snacks. Among the Primi Piatti (first courses), there are different kinds of pasta, for example, trenette and taglierini  flavored with Genoa’s very famous sauce, basil pesto or pansotti, a huge ravioli stuffed with vegetables and herbs topped with walnut sauce.

Fish Market in Genoa Italy

Among the various meat dishes are veal roulades filled with mushrooms, eggs, bread and aromatic herbs, lamb stew with carciofi (artichokes) and a stuffed pocket of pancetta sliced and served cold. Mushrooms are featured in the cuisine of Liguria, flavoring meat dishes and complementing fish dishes as well. Fish occupies an honored place on the menus of Genovese restaurants. Some typical second courses include: Cappon Magro, an elaborate dish made of fish and boiled vegetables and seasoned with a sauce of herbs and pine nuts. Other popular dishes are Fritto Misto (mixed deep-fried seafood), L’insalata di Pesce (seafood salad), Triglie (mullet) alle Genovese, Stoccafisso in Agrodolce, cod in sweet and sour sauce with pine nuts and raisins, Mussels alla Marinara and Stuffed Anchovies.

Among the desserts, one of the most distinctive is Pandolce, a treat found on every table at Christmastime. Genoa is famous for its pastries: Canestrelli, Amaretti, Baci di Dama (little walnut pastries), and Gobeletti, little short breads filled with quince jam.

Genova Inspired Recipes For You To Make At Home

Basil Pesto

Traditionalists would use a pestle and mortar to make this sauce. Since a food processor is available in our modern world, I prefer to save time and use it whenever I can.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups tightly packed young basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Directions:

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, pignoli and the salt together. Gradually pour in the olive oil with the motor running; the mixture will emulsify.

Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl and stir in the Parmigiano and Pecorino with a fork.

Pesto keeps in the refrigerator up to 1 week as long as it is topped with a thin layer of olive oil; it can also be frozen for up to 1 month if the Parmigiano and Pecorino have not been added.

Make a double batch and you can use it for the following recipes.


Linguine with Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 recipe for basil pesto, from above
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Directions

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and linguine into the boiling water. When the pasta is almost cooked to your liking, scoop out 3/4 cups of the pasta cooking liquid and add it to a pasta serving bowl. Drain the pasta in a colander, shaking it to remove excess water. Transfer the pasta to the bowl containing the pasta cooking liquid and toss. The cooking liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Add the prepared pesto, mix well, and taste for seasonings. It should be well seasoned and the pasta should be quite moist. Serve immediately in hot deep plates, sprinkled with the shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly grated black pepper.

Focaccia with Pesto and Tomatoes

If you would like more of a whole wheat flavor in the dough, substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed.
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Warm water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pizza pan
  • Half of the basil pesto recipe from above
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Mix the flour, yeast, and the salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add 3/4 cup of warm (110°F) water, then pour in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add enough warm water (about 1/2 cup) to make a soft dough that forms a ball. If the dough is dry, add a little more water; if it is sticky, add a little more flour.

Process 45 seconds, or until smooth and satiny; transfer to an oiled bowl and shape into a ball. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.

Transfer the dough to a generously oiled 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheet and push it with your fingers until it extends to the sides of the pan (you might need to wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax and stretch more easily).

Spread a very thin layer of pesto evenly over the dough, and then scatter olives, tomatoes, and onions over the pesto. Sprinkle cheese over the top of dough and, using your fingertips, press dough all over to form dimples; let sit, uncovered until puffed, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 400°F. Bake the focaccia on the bottom rack of the oven until the edges are golden brown and dough is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares and serve.

You can also place the focaccia pan on a baking stone in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden on the top and bottom and lightly crisp. 

 

Pesto Chicken Roulade

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto, from recipe above
  • 4 thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Olive Oil

Directions;

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the pesto sauce onto each flattened chicken breast. Place one slice of cheese over the pesto. Roll up tightly, and secure with toothpicks. Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Brush the tops of the chicken rolls with olive oil.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until chicken is nicely browned and juices run clear.



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