Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

With family visiting for the holidays, I had plenty of leftovers to use up. Leftover vegetable dishes can become salads, such as my Green Bean Salad recipe. Leftover pork and steak can become new entrees. Leftover Tzatziki Sauce needed a new entre dish to accompany, so a middle eastern chicken dish is perfect. Leftover asparagus is always good in an omelet or a quiche. So many new meals from leftovers. Give your leftovers a makeover.

Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine

Serve this pasta with a Green Bean Salad.

4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large (16-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped plum tomato
4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

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

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute.

Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and salt. Turn the shrimp over once and cook until pink on all sides.

Stir in pasta and Parmesan cheese; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Place pasta mixture in individual heated pasta bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.

Serve immediately.

Green Bean Radish Salad

You can also use leftover cooked green beans for this salad.

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, trimmed
15 large red radishes, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Place the radishes and the cooled beans in a serving bowl .

Combine the olive oil, shallots, vinegar and lemon juice in a large measuring cup.

Pour over the radishes and green beans and toss to coat.

Let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Shawarma Pitas

Serve with a Greek Salad.

2 servings

Ingredients

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup finely diced peeled and seeded cucumber
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Chicken

1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon za’atar spice mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pita breads or lavash
1 small tomato, chopped
Thinly sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium.

Stir cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine garlic, za’atar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl.

Slice chicken breast crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; toss with the spice mixture to coat.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine.

Grill the chicken on a stove top grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

To serve:

Spread 1/4 cup of the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a pita (or lavash) and top with one-half of the chicken, tomato and lettuce.

Fold like a taco (or roll closed, if using lavash). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cuban Sandwich

Serve with Homemade Tomato Soup

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 cup leftover grilled pork tenderloin; thinly sliced
1 loaf Cuban or Italian bread or rolls
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 oz ham; thinly sliced
Yellow ballpark mustard
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices Provolone cheese
Dill pickle rounds
1/4 cup diced jarred banana peppers

Directions

Slice bread in half lengthwise and then in half horizontally. Butter the outside of the bread.

Spread mustard on the insides of the bread and layer each sandwich with 1/2 of remaining ingredients. Set tops of rolls in place and press down to flatten sandwiches.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat for 4 minutes.

Brush the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter and place them in the skillet buttered side down.

Brush the bottoms of the rolls with butter and use the preheated pot to compress the sandwiches for 15 to 20 seconds.

Cook (keeping the pot on the sandwiches but no longer pressing down) until the first side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the pot, turn the sandwiches over, replace the pot on top of the sandwiches, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Tart

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, light green and white portions
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1/2 lb leftover cooked asparagus, cut into one inch lengths
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce tube refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin and drained on paper towels
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften,4- 5 minutes.

Add the shallots and saute for another 3 minutes.

Add the Italian seasoning, asparagus, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Stir and remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs.

Pat the crescent roll dough into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the sliced, drained tomatoes over the dough.

Spread the asparagus mixture over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Steak Quesadilla with Homemade Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 ounces cooked steak, sliced thin
Homemade salsa, recipe below
Sour cream, optional

Directions

Brush a large frying pan with olive oil and heat the pan. Lay a tortilla on the bottom of the pan.

Cover evenly with one half of the steak, onion, jalapenos and cheese. Top with another tortilla shell.

Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the bottom tortilla begins to lightly brown and then use a wide spatula to turn the quesadilla over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into quarters and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Homemade Salsa

Ingredients

One 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime juice
A few dashes chipotle Tabasco sauce

Directions

Mix together and chill.

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We must give credit to Sicily for giving us some delicious desserts made with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is cooked twice, so the name “ricotta means” re-cooked. The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. When the whey is reheated (re-cooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain, and this is called ricotta cheese.The foam of the whey when it is being recooked is called zabbina in Sicilian.

According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, wrote that during the reign of the Sicilian King Frederick II, in the early thirteenth century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. The first depiction of the making of ricotta is found in an illustration in the medical treatise known as the Tacuinum sanitatis, from the eleventh century. (Pictured above.)

Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts, especially for the holidays. Here is one that we like quite a bit.

Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the crust ingredients. Press evenly over the bottom and 1-1/2-inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.

Stir the sugar and flour together and then add to the ricotta. Mix thoroughly into the ricotta.

Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours tor 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is fairly firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill until serving time.


Weather here in the South is perfect grilling weather and perfect for dining out on the patio. We have guests for dinner and grilling steak with plenty of Mediterranean flavors is my choice for the menu. When I grill steak, I often make extra so that the leftovers can be used for a salad or Mexican dishes.

When I cook beef, I prefer grass-fed organic meat. As such the cooking technique is a little different. The steak benefits from being brushed with olive oil and cooked a much shorter time than regular beef. Using these tips makes for a delicious grilled steak.

Menu

Grilled Steak with Balsamic Glaze
Arugula
Italian Bread
Marinated Olives
Sliced Tomatoes with Italian dressing and basil

Grilled Ribeye Steak

Ingredients

Balsamic Glaze

1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for the steaks
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Ribeye Steaks

4 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups arugula
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

Simmer the balsamic vinegar in a small skillet over low heat until thickened. Add the shallots, 1/4 cup oil and crushed red pepper. Return to a simmer and remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the parsley, capers and thyme.

Rub both sides of steaks with olive oil. Combine the minced garlic, paprika, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of the steaks. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare an outdoor barbecue for medium-high heat. Brush the grill rack with oil.
Grill the steaks until cooked to your desired degree of doneness, but they are best if cooked for about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Line a serving plate or individual plates with arugula and place the cooked steaks on top. Spoon the glaze over the steaks and arugula. Sprinkle with the shaved cheese and serve.


With company coming for the holidays, I like to make some traditional Italian dishes. My children always ask for Italian and have ever since they were little. A favorite is ravioli and homemade ravioli is so delicious. Store-bought doesn’t compare. Since I am making it, I thought I would share the “how to” with you.

How To Make Homemade Ravioli

Combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 large eggs, beaten, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Process until the dough comes together; shape into a ball.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 dough pieces in plastic wrap; set aside.

Knead dough with a pasta machine. Set the rollers of the pasta machine at the widest setting (position 1). Feed one unwrapped dough piece through the flat rollers by turning the handle. (Dough may crumble slightly at first but will hold together after two to three rollings.)

Lightly flour the dough strip; fold strip into thirds. Feed through rollers again. Continue this process 5-6 times more, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll the dough out with the machine keeping the sheets as wide as the pasta maker roller. Reduce the setting to position 3. Feed the dough strip through the rollers. Without folding strip into thirds, repeat on positions 5 and 6.

Place the rolled out dough on a floured kitchen towel. Repeat kneading and rolling with the reserved dough pieces.

Ravioli Filling

1 cup ricotta cheese, well-drained
6 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, marjoram), chopped
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all the filling ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator to firm up the filling.

To Shape Ravioli

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Place the rolled dough on a cutting board and brush strips lightly with the egg mixture.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, place about 1 teaspoon of filling at 1-inch intervals on one strip of dough.

Lay a second strip of dough, brushed side down, over the first.

Using your fingers, press the dough around each mound of filling so that the two moistened strips stick together.

Cut into squares or rounds. Place cut out ravioli on cookie sheets sprinkled with semolina flour.

I usually cook some and freeze the rest for a quick dinner at a later date.

To Cook Ravioli

Bring a large amount of salted water to boiling in a large pot. Gently drop about one-fourth of the ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. They will float to the top of the water when cooked. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a serving dish and add the sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Braciole

Ingredients

6-8 thin slices top-round or sirloin steak
Extra-virgin olive
Kitchen string
Pasta Sauce, recipe below

Filling

2 large cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl combine the filling ingredients.

Between pieces of plastic wrap, pound the meat thin, scaloppine style.

Lay the meat slices out side by side on a clean workspace. Divide the filling equally on the meat slices, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

Drizzle with olive oil and roll each piece up jelly roll style. Tie each piece in three places with the string.

Brown in olive oil and add to the sauce.

Cover the pan, reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook the braciole in the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Pasta Sauce

Makes about 2 quarts of sauce.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (26-ounce) Italian chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi brand tomatoes)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and crushed red pepper, reduce the heat to a simmer, and place the cover on the pan but leave it ajar so the sauce can reduce.

Cook for 2-3 hours until reduced and thickened and then add meatballs, sausage or braciole. Cook for 30 minutes more.

Add the basil at the end of the cooking time.

 


In my part of the world, produce planted in February is coming into season during the month of April. Friday’s market had plenty of radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, leeks and asparagus. Fresh herbs and citrus fruits are still plentiful and they make excellent flavor additives to savory dishes.

There was lots to choose from, so the menu this week will reflect the variety of spring crops available. Here are a few ideas for when these crops are in season in your area.

Radish Salad

Pair this salad with the scallop recipe below. It is a great combination.

2 servings

Ingredients

4 large radishes
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 oz baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves

Directions

Whisk together the lemon juice, orange zest, salt, honey and cayenne; whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Set aside

Rinse and trim the radishes and slice into thin rounds.

Line a salad bowl with the spinach leaves and mound the radishes in the center and top them with the olives.

Drizzle the salad with the dressing just before serving.

Broccoli and Ricotta Pizza

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
2 cups broccoli florets
8 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
20 black olives, pitted and halved
2 chopped fresh plum tomatoes
Salt
Olive oil

Directions

Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Oil a large pizza pan.

Press the pizza dough out on the pan to the edges.

Cook the broccoli in salted boiling water for 2 minutes until it is just crisp-tender.

Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain well.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and garlic. Add a pinch of salt.

Place the sliced mozzarella evenly on the dough.

Drop the ricotta mixture in tablespoons on top of the dough and mozzarella.

Sprinkle with the olives and chopped tomatoes. Arrange the broccoli on top of the mixture.

Drizzle the top of the pizza with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Bake the pizza for 18 to 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces thin sliced prosciutto, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
1 cup half & half or heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz short pasta (I use Barilla’s Casarecce pasta for this dish)
1 bunch very thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 in pieces
1 1⁄2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh basil to taste

Directions

Bring 4 quarts salted water to boil in large pot.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water with the pasta for the last two minutes of cooking time.

Cook pasta al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, drain pasta and asparagus and return to pot.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking.

Cook prosciutto until lightly browned and crisp, (5 minutes) Transfer to paper towel lined plate.

Add garlic to the pan and cook 30 seconds.

Stir in cream and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Add the pasta and asparagus to the lemon cream sauce with  1/2 cup reserved pasta water, the cheese and the basil, toss to combine, add remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle with black pepper and crunchy prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Sea Scallops in a Citrus Rosemary Sauce

I also like to serve this dish with a mango salsa. See recipe:

Serves 2. This recipe is easy to increase the number of servings.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small finely chopped shallot
6 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
Flour, for dredging
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Juice and zest from half a large orange
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

Heat oil in a small skillet. Sauté shallots over medium heat until soft. Push them to one corner of the pan.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Season flour with salt and pepper.

Dredge the scallops in the flour.

Increase heat under pan to high; sear the scallops for 1 minute. Turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes.

Add lemon juice, orange juice and orange zest to the skillet (the sauce will sizzle and steam).

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and swirl in butter and rosemary. Serve immediately.

Potato Soup

Ingredients

2 slices pasture-raised bacon
2 leeks, rinsed well with white and light green parts sliced very thin
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 cups half & half or whole milk
Fresh dill or chives, chopped fine
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Sour cream for garnish, optional

Directions

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel. When cool enough to handle crumble into small pieces.

Heat the reserved bacon fat over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic, celery and carrot.

Cook until tender, about five to six minutes or so.

Add the broth, cubed potatoes and a teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cover the pot.

Cook the potatoes, vegetables and broth together over medium-low heat until the vegetables are softened and fall apart when pressed with the tines of a fork, about thirty minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender or use a processor.

Add the half & half, dill or chives to taste, crumbled bacon and adjust the seasoning. Reheat over low.

Serve with a tablespoon of sour cream, if desired.


 

This past week my market had a buy one – get one free for small peppers. I couldn’t pass that up. So, then came the planning – what to cook without getting sick of the peppers. Here are some dishes I came up with that include peppers.

Vegetable Quesadillas With Mango Salsa

Serves 2

Ingredients

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup diced jalapeños
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey cheese
Kosher salt
Three 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, corn, jalapeños, chili powder,1/8 teaspoon salt and cheese.

Divide the mixture between the tortillas, scattering it over half of each and folding the tortillas in half.

Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the quesadillas and cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 minute.

Turn the tortillas over and continue to cook until browned and crisp on the other side, 1 minute more. Let cool slightly, cut into wedges, and serve with lime wedges and Mango Salsa.

Mango Salsa

Ingredients

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
Half a yellow bell pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
Salt to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine all the mango salsa ingredients and set aside. Let sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Toss before using.

Sautéed Sausage, Peppers and Onion Sandwiches

Reserve 4 pieces of sausage and ½ cup of the peppers and onions for the Stuffed Zucchini recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 pound each of hot and sweet Italian sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
2 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into long strips
2 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Ciabatta rolls

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and brown them slowly. You want a gentle browning, not a quick sear.

Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

When cool enough to handle cut into two-inch lengths.

Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and cook, stirring often.

Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them, add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the sausages back in. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Heat the rolls and fill them with the sausage mixture.

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz cooked Italian sausage, chopped
¼ cup cooked peppers and onions, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 F. degrees.

Trim the stem end of the zucchini, cut a thin slice from the top and scoop out the zucchini flesh with a teaspoon. Finely chop the zucchini flesh and the slice from the top of the zucchini.

Place the zucchini shells in one layer in a baking dish. Generously brush the inside of the zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and add the chopped zucchini.Cook until soft and tender. Add the chopped sausage and chopped onions and peppers. Cook until hot. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the panko breadcrumbs to the filling and let cool until  easy to touch. Stuff the zucchini boats with the filling.

Sprinkle the top of the filling in the zucchini with Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little oil.

Bake the zucchini for 30 minutes, until the topping is crispy and golden.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Pork Fajitas

Use pork tenderloin — a tender, lean meat. Traditionally, fajitas are made with skirt beef steak, which has twice the fat and three times the amount of saturated fat.

Makes 8 fajitas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 small onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 flour tortillas, about 8 inches in diameter, warmed in the microwave
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 plum tomatoes, diced
4 cups shredded lettuce

Directions

In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, oregano, paprika, coriander and garlic powder. Dredge the pork pieces in the seasonings, coating completely.

Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Add the pork, peppers and onions and cook over medium-high heat, turning several times, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

To serve, spread an equal amount of pork, peppers and onions on each tortilla. Top each with 1 tablespoon cheese, 2 tablespoons tomatoes and 1/2 cup shredded lettuce.

Fold in both sides of each tortilla up over the filling, then roll to close. Serve immediately.

Turkey Salad

Ingredients

2 cups leftover roasted turkey breast, diced
2 stalks celery
¼ cup finely diced sweet onion
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl with a cover. Add the diced turkey, celery, onion and bell pepper. Mix well.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.

The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.

Olive Trees

The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.

 

For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,

THE NEW MEDITERRANEAN DIET COOKBOOK: A DELICIOUS ALTERNATIVE FOR LIFELONG HEALTH

Nancy advises:

Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.

Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.

Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.

Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.

Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.

Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.

 

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin

Directions

Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.

Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.

Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.

Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.

All-Purpose Dressing

Ingredients

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.

Tapenade

Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.

Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.

Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).

Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper

Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.

Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.

Sautéed Greens

Ingredients

3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Directions

Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.

Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.

Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.



Manish writes

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