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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Casseroles

The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients.

Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border in the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.The area also includes the Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera.

The food of Provence resembles more closely the cuisine of Italy, Greece and Spain than typical Parisian fare. Emphasis is on locally grown vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and olive oil, Provence is the birthplace of three well-known dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille.

There are many common traits between the French diet and the other Mediterranean countries, not only with regards to food choices, but also in the organization and structure of meals during the day. For example, there is no snacking in France, they eat three meals a-day, each with three courses, they eat together, portion control is common and they avoid “junk food”.

While the French embrace a wide range of foods, they keep things simple and like to use cheese, eggs, potatoes, butter, yogurt, as well as pasta and bread in their meal preparation. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France even at informal dinner parties.

Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditional French dishes, many which come with long histories, regional variations and modern adaptations. The French cuisine is to a great degree a culinary art. Traditional French cuisine relies on basic combinations and together with butter are the basic ingredients for the creation of their well-known sauces, appetizers and entrees. Full fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, in combination with small quantities of meat or poultry are the main ingredients in French recipes. Garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs are used to enhance those ingredients. Such recipes often include:

Appetizer Course: Provençal tomatoes, Scallops Provencal, Tapenade
Soup Course: Bouillabaisse, French Onion Soup, Saffron Mussel Bisque
Main Course: Coq au Vin, Lobster Thermidor, Ratatouille, Poulet de Provençal
Dessert Course: Orange Creme Brulee, Plum Clafouti, Poached Pears

Traditional French Recipes

Madame Saucourt’s Ratatouille

Hotel Mas des Serres in Saint Paul de Vence.

Source: Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert

Ratatouille, from the southeastern French region of Provence, is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients usually consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and herbs.

Ingredients

5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme

Directions

Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodible plate for at least 1 hour

Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.

In a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup olive oil until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer for 11/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, “deglaze” with a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.

Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.

Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a bowl to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the drained oil in the bowl to the pan.

Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at a simmer for 11/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid.

Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for another use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Coquilles St-Jacques

“Although coquilles St-Jacques simply means “scallops” in French, in the idiom of American cooks, the term is synonymous with the old French dish of scallops poached in white wine, placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell, covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and gratinéed under a broiler. This rich, classic recipe was a signature dish of most of the small French restaurants in New York when I came here in the late 1950s. While working at Le Pavillon back then, I must have made it thousands of times. These days, most chefs, myself included, have moved away somewhat from that dish, favoring lighter preparations. But I’ll tell you one thing: last time I made coquilles St-Jacques, it was for students at Boston University. I prepared two dishes for them: scallops cooked in a modern way, served with a green herb salad, and also the classic, gratinéed version. Now, these were not chefs-in-training; they didn’t know what they were supposed to like. And there wasn’t one student who didn’t choose the old way over the new. It just goes to show: Truly good food never really goes out of style.” —Jacques Pepin, chef, cookbook author, and PBS-TV cooking series host

Serves 6

Ingredients

8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Gruyère
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Heat mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2⁄3 of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir the parsley and minced tarragon into the mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and 3⁄4 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.

Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 10 minutes; strain.

Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops.

Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.

French Cassoulet

This hearty dish from southwestern France, known as a cassoulet, is a one-pot meal. A slow-simmered mix of beans, pork sausages, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck topped with a bread crumb crust , takes its name from the earthenware casserole in which it was traditionally made.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 duck legs
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

Directions

Soak the beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.

Sear the duck legs in 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown the sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.

Heat the oven to 300˚F. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat.

Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook the cassoulet until the crust is golden, about 5 minutes.

Crêpes Suzette

Credit for inventing Crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set the sauce aflame when serving this dessert to the Prince of Wales. Once the fire subsided, the sauce was so delicious that the prince asked that the dish be named for a young girl in his entourage, Suzette.

Serves 6

For the Crêpes

6 tablespoons flour
6 eggs
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed

For the Sauce

3 oranges
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons Cointreau
1 tablespoons Kirsch
1 teaspoon orange flower water
5 tablespoons cognac

Directions

Make the crêpe batter:

Whisk together flour and eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare the sauce:

Use a vegetable peeler to remove rind from 2 of the oranges, avoiding pith; mince rind and set aside. Juice all the oranges and set juice aside. In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1⁄2 cup sugar on high-speed of a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rind to butter and beat for 1 minute. Gradually drizzle in juice, 2 tbsp. of the Cointreau, Kirsch and orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.

Make the crêpes:

Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1⁄4 cup batter. Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute. Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.

To serve:

Melt orange butter sauce in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour remaining Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match. Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.

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Today’s dinner is one of our favorites. I don’t often eat lamb, but loin lamb chops are different. After siting in a marinade and then going on the grill, you couldn’t ask for anything more delicious than this. My market sells organic meats and when the lamb chops go on sale, I buy a few and put some extra away in the freezer for another day.

Red potatoes are in season in my area, so they are plentiful and inexpensive at the farmers’ markets. With the green beans, I got lucky. They are also in season but my batch came from a friend’s garden. He has quite a vegetable garden growing in a corner of his yard and he often shares some of his produce with me. Give this dinner a try, if you are in the mood. Delicious.

Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
4 lamb loin chops, about 1 inch thick (about 2 3/4 pounds in all)

Directions

In a shallow dish, combine 4 tablespoons of the oil with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb chops and turn to coat. Refrigerate for several hours before grilling.

Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler. Oil the grill grates. Place the chops on the grill and reserve any marinade in the dish.

Grill over high heat or broil the lamb chops for 5 minutes, basting with the reserved marinade. Turn and cook until done, about 5 minutes longer.

When grilling quick-cooking items such as chops, turn them only once.

If you leave the meat alone for a few minutes, it will have a chance to form a nice brown crust. If you move it too soon, the meat will stick, and you’ll pull off the incipient crust.

Once that brown edge forms, the meat is easy to move.

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients

White Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk

Casserole

2 pounds (about 6 medium) red potatoes, thinly sliced
Half of a medium onion, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Using a whisk, add the flour and stir briskly to incorporate the flour and butter. Sprinkle in the mustard, salt and pepper.

Continue to cook for one minute over medium heat. Whisk in the milk and continue to stir, until the liquid comes to a full boil.

Constantly stir and scrape the bottom of the pan while the sauce continues to cook and thicken, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spray a 1 ½ quart baking dish with vegetable spray. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the white sauce into the bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle lightly with onions. Arrange a layer of overlapping potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle with salt and half of the onions. Pour 1/2 of the sauce evenly over the potatoes.

Sprinkle with half the cheese and some of the thyme leaves. Repeat with a second layer in the same order.

Place the baking dish onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spray a piece of aluminum foil on one side with vegetable spray and place over the potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and remove the foil. Continue to bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Lemon-Ginger Green Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger root, grated
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for two minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.

Add lemon juice, cover the pan and steam the beans until they are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


 

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This time of year it takes some creativity to cook with seasonal ingredients. There is plenty of cabbage in the market in December and it can easily be used for a delicious main dish. Finding ways to use cabbage is not difficult. Add cabbage to casseroles and soup or sauté it for a side dish. Don’t pass up this healthy, versatile and frugal vegetable when you see in the market.

Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are usually made with rice but I like to use orzo because it has a soft texture and gives the rolls an Italian flair. You can use any type of meat but I like the flavor sausage gives the stuffing for these rolls.

Makes 18-21 rolls

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage placed in the freezer two days before using and then thawed. (It’s easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step)
8 oz pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup shredded carrot.
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked orzo
Marinara Sauce, see recipe below

Directions

Remove as many whole leaves from the cabbage head as you can. I was able to remove 21 leaves from my cabbage. Cut out the core and discard. Chop the remaining cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced sausage. Cook until lightly brown. Place in a large mixing bowl

Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute just until tender. Add the seasonings and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Add the orzo and ½ cup marinara sauce. Mix the filling until all the ingredients are combined.

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To assemble the cabbage rolls:

In a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, spread one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the chopped cabbage.

Use about 1/2 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves. Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish.. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours or until the cabbage rolls are very tender.

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Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-26 oz containers of Italian chopped tomatoes (without salt or sugar added, if possible)
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the next four ingredients. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook for about an hour until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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I am sure you have heard of Chicken Cacciatore but how about Beef Cacciatore? I came up with this recipe when I had several beef round roasts in the freezer and did not want to make a traditional pot roast. This is a great dish to make at this time of year. Assemble it and put in the oven and then you can go on with your holiday preparations. Cook some pasta or mashed potatoes and you have dinner.

A typical bottom round roast that weighs 3 to 4 pounds should be slow roasted in a Dutch Oven for about 4 hours for a tender roast with an internal temperature of 165 to 170 F(74 to 77 °C) . Preheat the oven to 300 °F (149 °C) and slow roast the meat for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the weight.

Beef Cacciatore

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 lb boneless bottom round roast (also called rump)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 (28 ounce) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
8 oz Pappardelle Pasta

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown the roast on all sides in the oil in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

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Add the garlic, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Let them cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine, tomatoes, seasoning and some additional salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Cook for about four hours or until very tender. Turn the roast over several times during cooking.

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Remove the roast to a large plate and let rest for ten minutes. Slice thin.

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Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Bring the sauce to a boil in the Dutch Oven and reduce the heat to low. Add the drained pasta and let heat for a minute or two.

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Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and place the sliced beef on top.

Serve this meal with a green salad.


 

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Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

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Serve this salad with grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti

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This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin

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Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


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pavia hats

Pavia is a province in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. The province is mostly flat with some hills in the south. The northwestern area of the province is ideal for agricultural land. Pavia has a major position in northern Italy’s textile industry and is renowned for hatmaking. It also plays its part in the country’s engineering and metallurgical industries. This is an important winemaking district that produces sparkling wines.and it is the largest area in Italy for the production of Pinot Noir. Also, the province of Pavia was the birthplace of Peroni, a well-known Italian beer.

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The Peroni company was established under the founding family name in the town of Vigevano, Italy, in 1846. The company moved to Rome 1864, six years prior to Rome becoming the Italian capital in 1870. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company became one of the most prominent brewing companies in the newly unified Italian nation.

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By the 1990s, both the Peroni brand name and product line were distributed and known worldwide. The London-based brewing giant SABMiller bought the company in 2003, making it one of the few international brands in its portfolio.

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Beers under the Peroni brand include: Crystall, a 5.6% alcohol pale lager; Peroni Gran Riserva, a 6.6% alcohol strong lager; Peroncino, a 5% alcohol pale lager and Peroni Leggera, a 3.5% alcohol pale lager. The company also produces the Wuhrer brand – a 4.7% alcohol pale lager launched in Brescia in 1829. The main brands are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro.

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Peroni is the Peroni company’s original brand. According to Assobirra (Italian Brewers and Malsters Trade Association), it is the best selling beer in Italy. It is 4.7% alcohol and made with barley malt, maize, hop pellets and hop extract. By the 1950s and 1960s, Peroni was the most recognized brand of beer throughout the Italian peninsula.

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Nastro Azzurro, a 5.1% alcohol pale lager, launched in 1963, is the Peroni Brewery’s premium lager brand. The name means “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, in honor of the Blue Riband award won by the Italian ocean liner SS Rex in 1933. Nastro Azzurro has also sponsored teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1997, they sponsored a 125cc Aprilia team with rider Valentino Rossi, who won the championship in that season. In 2000 and 2001 they sponsored a 500cc Honda team, again with Rossi as the rider.

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When you think of Italian food pairing, wine may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, beer can complement the flavors of Italian food just as well. The tradition of Aperitivo, a pre-dinner social hour featuring drinks and small plates, is the perfect time to enjoy Italian lager. Here are some appetizers that go well with beer.

• Affettati Misti: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa or bresaola, all of which have a saltiness and complex texture that will contrast with the lager. Serve with cured olives, quartered figs or melon slices.
• Crostini are thin Italian bread slices toasted with olive oil and then topped with a number of different kinds of pastes or sauces. Try an olive tapenade, a red bell pepper spread or a chicken liver pate.
• Fiori di Zucca are zucchini blossoms that make an elegant salad. Mix the blossoms, available at farmers’ markets or specialty groceries, with arugula, shaved pecorino cheese and a lemony vinaigrette.
• Carciofi alla Romana is a traditional roman dish of artichokes and mint. Artichokes are steamed in white wine with garlic, mint and parsley and sliced into small sections to eat by hand.
• Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter. Fresh vegetables are then dipped into this salty, creamy sauce.
• Cocktail di Gamberi. Steam shrimp in a broth of melted butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice and some Italian lager and serve warm or cold.

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Serves 1

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 large slice crusty Italian bread
1 ¾ cups beef stock
Enough Parmesan cheese (grated) for a generous sprinkle
A generous tablespoon of butter
An oven proof dish to contain the soup
Coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Put the oven proof dish in a moderate hot oven to heat while the other ingredients are prepared.

Bring the beef stock to boiling in a saucepan.

In a medium skillet, heat the butter and fry the bread on both sides.

Once the bread is ready, take the oven proof dish out of the oven.

Put the bread inside the dish, pressing it down so that it stays on the bottom of the dish.

Place the eggs over the bread, carefully, so the yolks do not break.

Top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

The dish is now ready for the stock. The stock must be boiling hot (not simmering) so raise the heat before adding it to the dish.

The heat of the stock will partially cook the eggs. You can cover the dish with a plate and leave the soup alone for one minute or two, then you can serve the dish.

Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.

Note: With this soup the eggs will never be thoroughly cooked, but this is the tradition. However, if you are serving the soup to children or older people, you may consider poaching the eggs before laying them on the bread; then you add the stock. Alternatively, before adding the stock, you can pass the dish under a broiler, in order to cook the eggs, but you need to be careful not to burn the bread.

paviarice

Asparagus Risotto

From Ristorante Da Mino, Pavia Province, Italy

Ingredients

1 1/4 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring 5 cups salted water to boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water; cool. Drain (reserving 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid in a saucepan).

Cut off the asparagus tips and reserve. Finely diced the stalks.

In the saucepan with the  reserved cooking liquid add the broth. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup hot liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Add the diced asparagus.

Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, adding liquid 3/4 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, about 20 minutes.

Mix reserved asparagus tips, grated cheese and butter into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

paviapork

Cassoeula (Pork Rib and Sausage Stew)

Cassoeula is a dish with several versions. Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added. Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail.

Recipe courtesy of The Italian Trade Commission.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 pig’s foot
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1/2 lb. pork rind
2 tablespoons oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1/2 lb. celery, diced
½ lb tomatoes, diced
3 lbs. Savoy cabbage
Salt and pepper

Directions

Boil the pig’s foot and cut in half, lengthwise.

Make a soffritto with the oil, butter and chopped onion. Add the pork rind, sausage and ribs, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.

When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery, tomatoes. Cook over medium heat.

After 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips. add salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 minutes.

The cooking juice should be rather thick. If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.

paviacake

Paradise Cake

Paradise cake is one of the most traditional Italian desserts. Light and airy, this cake is considered a cornerstone of Italian pastry.

Legend has it that the paradise cake was invented by a monk at a monastery in Pavia in Lombardy. There are different versions of this story, but almost all of them suggest that a monk learned to make the cake from a young bride who lived near the monastery. Since the cake was so good, she suggested to the monks that they name it paradise cake. The origin of the cake dates back further in history. There were already multiple versions of the recipe in existence in 1878, when pastry chef Enrico Vigoni, the owner of a pastry shop in Pavia that is still in business today, codified the recipe, making it famous throughout Italy.

Ingredients

1 lb butter
1 lb confectioners sugar
4 eggs
10 egg yolks
Vanilla extract to taste
5/8 lb all-purpose flour
5/8 lb potato starch
3/8 oz baking powder
Lemon zest to taste

Directions

Remove the butter from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes prior to baking. Once the butter is soft, whisk the butter in a bowl with the confectioner’s sugar by hand or with an electric mixer whisk attachment.

Once the mixture is light and creamy, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and continue whisking. Then add the grated lemon peel and mix well. Mix in the vanilla and potato starch.

Mix together the flour and baking powder and sift into a bowl or on wax paper. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together well, using a wooden spoon.

Grease a round cake pan with butter. Flour lightly, then pour in the cake batter, filling the pan to 2/3rds full.

Bake in a 350° F oven for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Once cool, remove the cake from the pan by turning it out onto a serving dish or cake stand. Finish by dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

paviamap


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IMG_0358

Grilled Lamb Chops

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

For 2

Ingredients

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

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Directions

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

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

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

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

Grilled Potatoes

IMG_0003 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Cucumber Tomato Salad

IMG_0002 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Swordfish and Zucchini Kebabs  

IMG_0008 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

Swordfish

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

Kebabs

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

 A New Way To Cook Pasta

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Angel Hair Pasta 

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

IMG_0357

Ingredients

Pasta

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Homemade Marinara Sauce

IMG_0012 (1)

Use this sauce for the meatballs and eggplant recipes.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

Neapolitan Meatballs

IMG_0014 (1)

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

Makes 16 meatballs

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Eggplant Parmesan

IMG_0018 (1)

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

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

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

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

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

Directions

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

Italian Romaine Salad

IMG_0016 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Directions

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



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