Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

Greek Salad Topped With Chrispy Chicken Fingers

4 servings

Ingredients

Chicken
1 lb chicken tenders (about 8)
2 tablespoon olive oil
Flour (any type works here)

Chicken Marinade
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
`1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salad
1 head of romaine hearts
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons
1/4 of a red onion sliced thin
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
Half a bell pepper, seeded and diced
20 grape tomatoes, halved
16 Kalamata olives
8 pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 mini pita breads, warmed

Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano and 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 ½ teaspoons of Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

For the chicken


Combine the chicken tenders and the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag. Place in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Drain the chicken from the marinade and dredge the tenders very lightly in flour. Place the tenders in the skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate to cool.

For the salad dressing
Add all dressing ingredients to a jar. Cover and shake for about a minute. Store salad dressing in the refrigerator. Remove the dressing from the refrigerator15 minutes prior to using it.

For the salad
Tear the romaine hearts into small pieces, wash well and spin dry. Place the washed romaine in a large serving bowl. Add the remaining salad ingredients except for the pita and add just enough salad dressing to moisten the salad. Start with about ¼ cup, mix well, taste and see if more dressing is needed. Place the salad in four serving dishes and top each with two cooked chicken tenders. Serve with pita bread.


The recipe yields enough sauce and meat for 2 pounds of pasta. Serve this meal, as the Italians do, with a green salad.

Penne with Ricotta Cheese
1 lb whole grain penne pasta
1 lb Italian pork sausage, hot or sweet, cut into links
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Soft and Tender Meatballs
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
3 (26-28-ounce) containers Italian crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the meatballs:
Combine the crushed saltines and milk in mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Mash with a fork until a smooth paste forms. Add the meat, Parmesan, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the saltine mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Use a muffin/ice scoop to form 12 meatballs. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Combine oil and garlic in a large Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until the garlic is soft about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion softens about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Carefully place the meatballs into the sauce. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and place the Dutch Oven in the preheated oven.

Place one tablespoon olive oil il a separate baking pan and place the sausage links in the pan, turning to coat the sausages in oil. Place in the oven with the sauce. Bake until the sausages are brown, turning them over halfway through the baking time about 45 minutes. Add the sausages to the meatball/sauce mixture. Continue to bake the sauce for 15 minutes more.

For the pasta
Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven and place it on the stove, covered, while you cook the pasta. When the pasta is cooked al dente, return it to the pasta pan and add 2 cups of the tomato sauce, stir gently and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir again. Place the pasta in a pasta serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of warm ricotta cheese on top. Place some of the meatballs and sausage around the pasta and serve.


America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation. Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America. This new series will be about what they cooked.

Brooklyn’s Lard Bread or Prosciutto Bread or Prosciutto Cheese Bread

There’s a bread that can be found at most Italian deli’s in New York City – it used to be called Lard Bread but now is referred to as Prosciutto Bread The lard bread story is not clear if you try to trace it back to Italy. Like Nicolo Mazzola, who founded their Brooklyn bakery in 1928 and whose family originated in Sicily, but on trips back to the homeland, he’s never seen anything like Mazzola’s lard bread on the streets of Palermo. Recipes for lard bread don’t appear much in Italian cookbooks either, and while stuffing fatty odds and ends into bread dough is a common theme throughout Italy, no particular region seems to have much connection to the peppery cured-meat-and-aged-cheese bread that’s popular on this side of the Atlantic.

For most Italian Americans who eat it, lard bread is mainly a Christmas and Easter tradition.
If you’ve never heard of lard bread—also called prosciutto bread—you’re not alone. The loaf is virtually unknown outside New York City and parts of New Jersey and Philadelphia, where a critical mass of Italian Americans has kept the tradition alive since their ancestors immigrated to the country in the 1800s. But even in the Northeast ItalianAmerican communities, you won’t find it in most Italian bakeries. “Lard bread” isn’t the most appealing name in times like these, especially after decades of healthy eating conditioning, it never captured the public imagination as you might expect for a bread stuffed with meat and cheese.

I thought it would be a fun thing to try at home and take to my Sons & Daughters Of Italy In America meeting. I doubled the recipe to make 2 loaves to take to the potluck supper we have before the meeting. I used my go-to pizza recipe for the bread dough and then added the traditional ingredients as described below.

Brooklyn Street Bread

Ingredients

Dough
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Filling
4 ounces provolone cheese, diced
2 oz pancetta, diced
2 ounces prosciutto, diced
2 ounces pepperoni, diced
2 ounces Genoa salami, diced
2 ounces capicola, diced
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer and with the paddle attachment mix until the ingredients come together around the paddle. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes.

Spray a large ziplock plastic bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag and close the top. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight. Alternately, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubles, 60-90 minutes and make the bread the same day.

Place the dough in the center of a floured pastry board and flatten the dough with your hands into a large circle. Spread the black pepper, meat, and cheese over the top. Fold the dough over to cover the meat and cheese, and then flatten and fold the dough over a few times with your hands to distribute the ingredients throughout the bread.

Shape the dough into a large oval shape or into a baguette and place on a rimmed baking pan.

Cover with greased plastic and let rise at room temperature until puffy and dough springs back slowly when pressed lightly with your finger, about 45-60 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp paring knife make a ½-inch-deep lengthwise slash along the top of the loaf, starting and stopping about 1½ inches from ends. Bake until the loaf register 205 to 210 degrees, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer the loaf to wire rack and let cool completely about 3 hours. Serve.


Sweet mini peppers are a hybrid sweet pepper, small in size and sold in assorted tri-color packs. They were originally developed in the late 1990s and range from 1.5 inches up to 4.0 inches. Each color is grown separately and consists of three separate varieties of seeds that have very similar characteristics in size, flavor, shape, and use. Their flavor and texture are similar to bell peppers but sweeter and with very few seeds.

Stuffed Mini Peppers

These little peppers are often used for appetizers but they also make for a delicious, easy dinner. Just add a side of coleslaw or salad and you have dinner.

Ingredients

8-10 oz. mini bell peppers
2 Mexican chorizo links, casing removed
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon cilantro paste
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 minced chipotle pepper with½ tablespoon chipotle sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz. shredded Colby Jack cheese
Salsa for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
.Cook the chorizo and red onion over medium-low heat for 10 minutes in a small skillet. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Split the bell peppers lengthwise and remove the core.


Mix together the cream cheese, cooled chorizo mixture, spices and oil in a small bowl. Fill the bell peppers with the mixture and place them on a greased foil-lined baking pan.
Press shredded cheese on top of each pepper.


Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown
Serve with salsa, if desired.


Crispy Baby Kale Chips

The kale chips were tasty but small and fragile after baking. I think the next time I make this recipe, I will use regular-sized kale for a hearty chip.

Ingredients

1- 5-ounce package organic prewashed baby kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets or rimmed baking pans with parchment and set aside.

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl until the kale leaves are evenly coated.

Lay the leaves in a single layer on the pans and put them into the oven. Switch and rotate the pans halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Bake for 30 minutes, until crisp.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool before eating. Leftover chips can be stored in an air-tight container or ziplock bag for 4 days.

Southern Style Air Fryer Chicken

The chicken turned out delicious and crispy. The best thing about making fried chicken in the air fryer is that there is no messy/greasy clean up after cooking.

Ingredients

Chicken

4 skinless bone-in thighs, about 1 ¼ lb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon paprika

Dry Coating
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 cup self-rising flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

Wet Coating
1 egg room temperature
1/2 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons water
Butter flavored or olive oil cooking spray

Directions

In a bowl combine chicken with olive oil and then add the spices. Rub it in and set aside. In a large shallow dish, mix together flour, cornstarch, and spices. In a medium dish, mix together eggs, hot sauce, milk, and water.
Coat chicken very lightly in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
Place on a plate to allow time for some of the flour to be absorbed; set aside for about 10 minutes
Coat the chicken in the egg mixture; shaking off excess.


Immediately, coat the chicken in the flour mixture making sure all areas are coated, shaking off excess.
Let chicken rest for 15 minutes.


Coat the chicken all over with cooking spray.
Place chicken in greased Air Fryer basket, allowing room for the air to flow all around the chicken.
Cook on 350 F. for about 16 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway through the cooking time.


Remove and serve immediately.

Zucchini Crust Pizza

This recipe is amazing. It tasted like real pizza and you can actually hold the slice of pizza in your hand. Great for a low carb option.

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini about 1 1/2 cups shredded
1/3 cup almond or cassava flour
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
¾ cup pizza sauce
¾ cup mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
¾ cup optional Toppings: olives, mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni, cooked sausage, or whatever you prefer on pizza
Olive oil cooking spray.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Line a pizza pan (14-inch) with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray, set aside. I use a cast iron pizza pan.
Place shredded zucchini on a kitchen towel.


Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt.
Set aside for 10 minutes.
Squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini in the towel. Place the squeezed zucchini on a paper towel until ready to make the dough.

In a medium bowl, mix the shredded zucchini, flour, egg, cheese, Italian spices, and garlic powder with a spoon until combined; then by hand form the dough into a ball.

Transfer the mixture on to the greased parchment paper on the pizza pan.
Press the dough into a 12-inch round on the greased parchment paper.


Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust looks set and is starting to brown.


Remove the pizza crust from the oven.
Add the sauce, followed by the toppings and scatter the cheese on top.
Return the pan to oven and bake for another 8 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted. Let rest a few minutes and then cut into serving pieces.


When broccoli rabe shows up in my supermarket, I know spring is not far behind in my area.

Sausage, Mozzarella, and Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Half of a large sweet onion, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 container (26-28 ounces) chopped Italian tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
8 ounces short pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into two-inch lengths
8 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


In a large skillet or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is golden brown, 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).
Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions and add the broccoli rabe to the pot with the pasta. Cook for the remaining time. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in tomato sausage sauce.

Transfer to an oiled 3-quart baking dish Top with diced mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbling about 15 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Tortilla Soup

The tortilla strips and the garnishes are best prepared on the day of serving. The rest of the soup can easily be prepared ahead by several days.
I make my own chipotles en adobo, so I included the recipe at the end of the post. Canned chipotles can also be used.

Makes about 9 cups, serving 6

Tortilla Strips
8 corn tortillas (6-inch), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon avocado or vegetable oil
Table salt

Soup
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (total about 1 1/2 pounds)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions (total about 1 pound), peeled, 1 cut in half and the other onion finely diced
2 cups corn kernels
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled, 2 cut in half and the other two minced
2 sprigs fresh epazote or 2 teaspoons dried ( or 8 to 10 sprigs fresh cilantro plus 1 sprig fresh oregano if you don’t have epazote)
Table salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 medium jalapeño chile, chopped
1 chipotle chile en adobo with 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, finely chopped

Garnishes
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 Hass avocado diced fine
8 ounces shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Mexican crema or sour cream

Note on Epazote
Epazote is a Mexican herb with an acidic lemony flavor.
I use the dried version since fresh is not easy to find in my area.

FOR THE TORTILLA STRIPS: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread tortilla strips on rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss until evenly coated. Bake until the strips are deep golden brown and crisp, about 14 minutes, rotating pan and shaking strips (to redistribute) halfway through the baking time. Season strips lightly with salt; transfer to plate lined with several layers paper towels. Set aside.

FOR THE SOUP: Bring the chicken breasts, broth, 1 onion halved, 2 garlic cloves cut in half, epazote, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boiling over medium-high heat in large saucepan; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a large plate. With a spider or slotted spoon remove the onion and garlic halves and discard them. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; discard bones.

To the broth add the tomatoes, the chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, jalapeño, corn, 1/2 teaspoon salt, chipotle chile, and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Add shredded chicken and simmer until heated through about 5 minutes. To serve, place portions of tortilla strips in the bottom of individual bowls and ladle soup into bowls; pass garnishes separately.

 

Loaded Nacho Platter

I save leftover steak in the freezer for making dishes like nachos.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 pound leftover steak or lean ground beef, cooked
1 cup chopped bell peppers
3 cups tortilla chips
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup sliced jarred pickled jalapenos
2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa or pico de gallo

Directions

Shred the cooked steak.
Preheat your oven to 375 F, or you can use your broiler.

Spread the 3 cups of chips over the bottom an ovenproof platter so that you can’t see the bottom of the plate.
Sprinkle1 cup cheese over the top of the chips. Evenly distribute the toppings so that every chip has some toppings.
Top with the remaining cheese. Place the platter into the oven or under the broiler.
When the cheese is melted, remove the platter from the oven and use a metal spatula to put nachos onto individual serving plates.

Homemade Chipotle Chiles en Adobo

Ingredients

12-14 dried Chipotle Chiles
3 cups of water
1/2 medium onion finely diced
6 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

Directions

 

Simmer all the ingredients in a covered pan for one hour, stirring occasionally or until the liquid reduces to about a cup.
I store the chilies in snack bags in the freezer for when I need them-1 pepper and 1 tablespoon sauce in each snack bag. They defrost very quickly. when you need them.



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