Planning what to cook based on what is in season can bring out the creative cook in you. Bell Peppers, Spinach, Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Tangerines, Radishes, Mangoes, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Squash, Blueberries and Carrots are all in season this month. With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what to buy.
What I do is think about what kind of recipe and what type of meals I want this week. Then, I look for the ingredients to match. For example, a soup would be good for dinner and the leftovers are good for lunch. Greens was beautiful in the market now, so a soup with greens added would be good to make. Also we will need is some delicious bread to go with it.
This thinking can apply to salads, light dinners and special entrees. Also, I like to take advantage of sales. For example, packages of pita bread were “buy one package and get one free” this week. Pita is a versatile bread to have on hand and they also make delicious and healthy chips.
When I finish grating a piece of Parmesan cheese, I save the rind in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I add one to the soup pot for added flavor.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh escarole, spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling
Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.
In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.
Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini.
Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
2 anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, peeled
2 cups lightly packed torn Boston or Bibb lettuce
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor; puree until smooth. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.
Using a vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons from the carrot. Toss together the carrots and lettuce in a bowl. Add some of the dressing to greens and gently toss. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)
Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls
For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.
12 oz center-cut boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut lengthwise into 2 strips
4 cups fresh raw spinach leaves, stems removed, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 cup cream cheese with onion and chives, if available, or regular cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil.
Mix together the cream cheese, garlic and spinach until well blended then season with salt and pepper.
The mixture will be firm.
Season the salmon strips with salt and pepper and spread each fillet strip with the spinach filling.
Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go.
Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the pinwheel from unrolling. Place the rolls in the prepared dish.
Repeat with the remaining salmon strip. Sprinkle the rolls with the lemon juice.
Bake the salmon rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.
Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)
8 oz boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoons za’atar (Middle Eastern spice)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 cup pita chips, recipe below
1 cup sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Oil the grill grates.
Coat chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
Cook turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total.
Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, remaining oil, oregano, garlic and pepper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the grilled chicken, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, romaine and pita chips.
Pour the reserved dressing over the salad mixture, add cheese and toss gently to coat.
Homemade Pita Chips
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.
1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.
Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix.
Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.
Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.
Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large zip-lock bag until needed.
Warm Blackberry Sauce
This sauce is great to have on hand as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or plain pound cake.
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, washed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch.
Add the water, maple syrup,lemon juice and berries.
Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.
Transfer the sauce to a serving dish. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Our favorite bagels are not from a bagel shop but homemade. In my part of the world, there are no bagel shops. You can buy a bagel at the supermarket or at the airport, but no bagel shop where you can go pick out your favorite dozen. So I make my own. I make several different flavors, such as pumpernickel or cinnamon, at different times, but these are our favorite. They are especially good with smoked salmon and red onion.
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup sourdough starter
1 ½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
Olive oil for the bowl
Everything bagel topping
Combine the flour, yeast, salt, onion powder and garlic powder in the large bowl of an electric mixer.
With the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.
Combine the sourdough starter, warm water and honey in a large measuring cup and pour into the flour mixture in the electric mixer bowl.
Mix the dough with the paddle attachment on low speed until the dough comes together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 10 minutes. With a spatula, scrape the dough from the bottom of the bowl to the top.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rest 5 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to knead the dough with the dough hook for 10 minutes. This procedure helps the dough to develop the gluten that bagels need.
Oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning it several times to coat in the oil. Cover and let rise, about 2 hours.
Place the dough on a floured board. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. I use a scale to measure.
On the floured board gently roll the one piece of sough into an 8 inch length and join the ends together to form a ring. Place on a floured kitchen towel. Repeat until all the bagels are formed. Let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a Dutch Oven or other large pot three-quarters of the way with water. Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar and bring to a boil.
Place 3 bagels in the boiling water and let cook for one minute. With a spider or large spoon turn the bagels over in the water and cook for one minute. Remove the bagels to a dry kitchen towel.
Repeat this procedure for the remaining babels.
Top some of the bagels with an everything bagel topping, if desired.
Place the boiled bagels on parchment lined cookie sheets Six bagels to a sheet.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pans after half the baking time has elapsed. Remove the pans from the oven and place the bagels on a cooling rack.
Bagels freeze well, so I store them there and defrost them overnight when I want to serve the,
Some great toppings for your homemade bagels:
Cream cheese with chives and scallions. Add slices of cucumber for a lunch treat.
Cream cheese, slices of smoked salmon and slices of red onion.
Eggs Over Easy with slices of cheese and cooked bacon.
Tuna or Turkey Melt
What is your favorite bagel topping?
I often see photos of pizza with salad on top and I had been wanting to try something similar. So, keeping with what is in season, my pizza is made with onions, mushrooms and arugula salad. Serve this pizza with marinated olives and sliced tomatoes. And, don’t forget dessert!
1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
Half a large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
½ cup feta cheese
1 cup arugula
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Spread the pizza dough in a greased pizza pan.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute and add the mushrooms.
Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until all the mushroom liquid is absorbed.
Spread the sliced mozzarella on top of the pizza dough. Spread the mushrooms over the cheese.
Sprinkle the feta on top of the mushrooms.
Bake the pizza until crispy and brown on the edges.
Mix the arugula with the lemon juice.
As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the arugula salad and freshly ground black pepper.
Cut and serve.
Italian Almond Carrot Cake (Torta di Carote)
This cake is gluten-free and made with olive oil. It is not your traditional American carrot cake.
You can also buy the carrots shredded from the supermarket.
1/2 cup regular olive oil, not extra-virgin
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
1 cup mascarpone
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons rum
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the base of a 9 inch springform pan with a parchment paper cut to fit the bottom. Coat with olive oil spray.
Add the pine nuts to a small dry pan and toast them over low heat.
Grate the carrots in a food processor or with a coarse grater, and put them on a double layer of paper towels. Wrap the towels around the carrots to soak up the excess liquid.
Using the whisk attachment in an electric mixer, combine the sugar and olive oil until creamy.
Whisk in the vanilla and eggs. Fold in the almond meal/flour, nutmeg, grated carrots, toasted pine nuts the lemon zest and lemon juice.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be not be very high in the pan.
Bake the cake until the top is risen and golden and a cake tester comes almost clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest on a rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides. Let cool until ready to serve. Transfer the cake to a serving platter.
Combine the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar and rum in a small bowl. Slice the cake and serve with the mascarpone cream.
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.
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
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.
Green Bean Radish Salad
You can also use leftover cooked green beans for this salad.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Serve with Homemade Tomato Soup
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Mix together and chill.
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
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt
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.
Grilled Steak with Balsamic Glaze
Sliced Tomatoes with Italian dressing and basil
Grilled Ribeye Steak
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
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
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.