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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Dinner

Planning your menu before you go shopping is a practical skill that will save you time and money. At this time of year, you want easy to prepare meals that utilize what is in season and you want to cook healthy meals most of the time. This does take a little planning but well worth the time. Here are a few ideas to help you plan next week’s menu.

Fish Parmigiano

Serve this fish entrée with basil pesto pasta and yellow summer squash.

Ingredients

4 white fish fillets (about 6 oz each), such as flounder, tilapia, halibut, etc.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 1 ½ cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
Olive oil plus olive oil cooking spray
1 cup Marinara sauce, heated
4 slices mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cover a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and coat with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush each fish fillet on all sides with the mayonnaise.

Place the coated fish in the panko crumbs and press the crumbs into the fish on all sides.

Place the fillets on the prepared baking pan and drizzle the top of each fillet with a little olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place hot marinara sauce on each fillet (about ¼ cup on each) and top with a slice of cheese.

Return the pan to the oven and cook about 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta

Serve this pasta entrée with a tomato salad.

Topping

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Cauliflower

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped fine
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 minced garlic cloves
12 ounces short pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

For the topping:

Combine the breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat.

Cook, stirring, until the mixture is well toasted and golden-brown.

Stir in the thyme; remove from heat, and reserve.

For the cauliflower:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium baking dish, combine the shallots, cauliflower, garlic, salt and red pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the cauliflower is tender and browned.

Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese. Set aside while the pasta cooks.

For the pasta:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pan.

Turn the heat to very low and add the cauliflower sauce. Heat for a minute or two and pour into a pasta serving.

Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the top of the pasta and serve.

Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Pizzaiola is a term used for a Neapolitan style pizza tomato sauce. I like to use it over pork cutlets or beef steak. Mashed potatoes and a green vegetable are good sides for this entrée.

Ingredients

For the pork

4 boneless pork chops, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

For the sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups crushed Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 basil sprig

Directions

For the pork:

Trim the pork chops of all fat. Pound them between sheets of plastic wrap until about a ¼ inch thick.

Beat the egg with a little water. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

Dredge the pork cutlets in the Italian breadcrumbs. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

It is important to refrigerate the breaded pork for a few hours, so that the breading stays put when the pork is cooked.

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion, bell pepper and garlic.

Cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and let the sauce simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

To cook the pork:

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin coating of olive oil. Heat.

Add the pork cutlets and cook until brown on one side, turn and cook the second side until brown.

Drain the chops on paper towels. Place on serving plates and top with the Pizzaiola sauce.

Dinner Frittata

I usually make extra grilled vegetables, so I can use them in a frittata or quiche.

Serve this entrée with an Italian Mixed Greens Salad.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 cups leftover grilled potatoes, peppers and onions
See recipe link 
1 cup cooked spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
6 large eggs beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
3 slices of your favorite cheese

Directions

Preheat the broiler

Heat the oil and butter together in an ovenproof nonstick skillet.

Add the potato and pepper mixture and cook until hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scatter the crumbled bacon over the mixture.

Pour the beaten eggs over all and cook until the eggs are set on the bottom.

Distribute the cooked spinach over the top of the frittata.

Break the cheese slices into quarters and place them evenly over the spinach.

Place the skillet under the broiler and cook the frittata until the cheese melts.

Remove and let rest for 3 or 4 minutes. Cut into serving pieces.

Chicken Piccata

Serve this quick cooking chicken entrée with noodles dressed with butter, Parmesan cheese and parsley and a green vegetable.

Serves 2

Ingredients

Two 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded until thin and even
Coarse salt
Ground white pepper
1/4 cup finely ground all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and white pepper. Lightly coat in flour. Shake off excess.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the olive oil and butter, swirl them around the pan, and add the chicken.

Turn the heat to high and saute the chicken 2 minutes per side.

Pour in the wine, swirl it around the pan for 20 seconds, and turn the chicken over.

Add the lemon juice and capers, swirl them around in the pan and turn off the heat. Serve immediately.

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Happy Mother’s Day To All.

Appetizer

Sliced Tomatoes, Burrata Cheese, Olives, Basil and Italian Breadsticks

Entrée

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Ingredients

For the Chicken

2 to 2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
1 carrot, cut into quarters
2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
2 large bay leaves
Small bundle of fresh herbs: parsley, thyme and rosemary

For the Sauce

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced into matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and white pepper or finely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (poaching liquid)
1 cup frozen peas

For the Pasta

1 pound short pasta (penne, casarecce, gemelli)
A handful of fresh herbs: parsley, thyme leaves, sage and rosemary, very finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

To poach the chicken:

Place the chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay leaves and herb bundle in a pot, cover the chicken with water and bring to boil.

Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve the poaching liquid.

Cool the chicken until it can be handled. Remove the skin and bones then pull meat into thin, bite-sized pieces.

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and sauté until tender, 6-7 minutes.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir a minute more.

Deglaze the pan with the wine then stir in 2 cups of the reserved poaching liquid.

Cook until thickened, add in chicken and peas, and reduce heat to low.

To cook the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. Add the pasta and cook to al dente.

Drain and toss with the chicken and sauce, adding an additional 1/2 cup poaching liquid if needed.

Combine the lemon zest with the finely chopped herbs.

Add the lemon juice to the pasta and serve in shallow bowls topped with gremolata and some Parmesan cheese.

Italian Mixed Greens Salad

Ingredients

1 cup Radicchio
1 cup Butter Lettuce
1 cup Romaine Lettuce
½ cup Sliced Red Onions
Italian Vinaigrette

Directions

Tear the lettuces into small pieces and place in a salad bowl. Add the red onion and Italian vinaigrette to taste.

Toss well and serve immediately.

Dessert

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Ingredients

For the crust

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the berry layer

4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, 3 cups flour and baking powder. Mix in salt and cinnamon.

Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter. Add the egg and vanilla. Dough will be crumbly.

Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blueberries.

Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. Serve with ice cream, if desired.


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How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.

Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.

Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.

If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.

Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.

Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.

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Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.

Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.

You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.

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Sautéed Peas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.

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Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

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Apple Rosemary Tart

Ingredients

One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.

Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.

Dot the apples with the butter.

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Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.

Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.


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You may recall that I posted recipes over the past few weeks for Butternut Squash Gratin and Braised Steak. Naturally we had plenty leftover, so I created a few new ways to use the leftovers other than just heating them up again.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 12 sage leaves, sliced

Directions

Combine the butternut squash gratin, ricotta, egg and salt together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands.

Add the remaining flour — the dough should be sticky, but pliable enough to shape into a large log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.

To make the gnocchi:

Spread some flour on a large work surface and cut the dough log into four equal pieces.Take one piece and cut it in half.

Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into 1 inch pieces..

Dust the gnocchi with a little flour and push the tines of a fork into one side of the dumpling. Place the gnocchi on a waxed paper tray dusted with flour and cover with a dry kitchen towel.

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To cook the gnocchi

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty. Place a pasta bowl close to the stove

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top of the boiling water. You may have to do this in batches, so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove the gnocchi with a spider allowing the water to drain and place the gnocchi in the bowl. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked.

To make the sauce

Heat the butter and sage together in a small skillet. Pour the melted butter over the cooked gnocchi, add the cheese and mix well. Garnish with black pepper and serve immediately.

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Butternut Squash Turnovers

Makes 4 pastries

Dough

1 sheet of cold frozen phyllo dough, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight

Filling

  • 1 cup butternut squash gratin, divided
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roll the pastry into a 12 inch square on a floured board. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal squares.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the squash mixture into the center of each square and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold diagonally in half and press the edges with a fork to seal.

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With a wide spatula, place the turnovers on a parchment covered baking pan. Brush the turnovers with beaten egg.


Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the turnovers are puffy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Quick Beef Pot Pie

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl.

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Fit one pastry into a 9 inch pie plate. Pour the filling into the pie pastry. Cover with the second pastry and flute the edges. Make several slits in the top crust.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.


tuscany-dawn-tuscany_italy_3_1024x1024

This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

peas

Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

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

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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Summer Cooler Dolan Zolan’'s painting 2011

Summer Cooler – Dolan Zolan’s painting 2011

Getting together with friends doesn’t need to be something that’s planned for days. Keep it simple and enjoy the evening. You also want to cook easy, but delicious food with a minimum of fuss. I try to make up menus that do most of the cooking on the grill and much of the preparation in advance. That way I can spend time with my guests. Make dessert easy by serving fresh fruit. It is much more refreshing than a heavy dessert and add a little frozen yogurt, if desired.

Menu One

Serve this dinner with a tray of vegetables and a creamy dip.

Pesto Flounder Packets

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This recipe is easy to adapt to seasonal ingredients. When basil is not available, use a spinach or red pepper pesto. Baking in parchment during cold weather is quite successful, but use the grilling method when the weather cooperates.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets or any white fish fillets available in your area
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lime slices

Directions

Prepare  an outdoor grill.

Cut aluminum foil into 4 pieces large enough to enclose the fillets. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each piece of foil. Place fish on top of the oil.

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Lightly spread 1 tablespoon pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and lime slices.

Seal foil packets and place on the grill. Grill 8-10 minutes or until fish are cooked.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

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This casserole can be prepared in advance and cooked when the guests arrive or cooked in advance and reheated. Tastes just fine reheated.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the bell pepper, squash and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 cups corn kernels, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Stir together for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the remaining 1 cup corn kernels in a blender and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Combine with the vegetables in the skillet.

Add the parsley and the cheese, and stir together. Pour into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Menu Two

Add some crusty bread to this dinner and you are all set.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

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4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 8 oz rigatoni or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves

Directions

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

In the same pan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the onions from browning.

Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

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Add the lemon zest, juice and crushed red pepper. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta cooking water. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Turn into a serving bowl and place tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top and scatter the basil over all. Serve immediately

Garden Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Sliced radishes and black olives to taste
  • 4 cups torn garden lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Vinaigrette, recipe below

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and add a little more dressing, if necessary.

Italian Vinaigrette

Yields: ¾ cup

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk the first seven ingredients together. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Menu Three

IMG_0009

Add a Tomato Salad to complete this menu.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Grill the sausage over indirect heat and the potato packets over direct heat. Saves lots of cleaning up in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs Italian Sausage
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil. Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve with the potato mixture

Potatoes, Bell Peppers and Onions

5-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges, boiled until barely tender
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the mixture on a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Fold foil around the potato mixture and crimp the edges to seal.

Grill directly over high heat, rotating the packet several times, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes


IMG_0013

Pining for a great steak dinner or celebrating a special occasion? A trip to s premium steakhouse will cost you the following:

Morton’s 3 course steak dinner for one is $150-160.

Ruth’s Chris price for just the cowboy rib eye is $50.

Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago – premium steaks average $40 to $60 per steak.

Dinner at less prestigious steak restaurants will be at least $90 per person.

If you make this special dinner at home, and I did, this is what it cost me:

Cost of a quality steakhouse dinner at home for 2 is less than $30 plus whatever your wine cost. These are prices for my area and the vegetables are in season and often on sale here

1 1/2 lb organic, grass fed French cut rib eye steak cost $22.50

Prices at the market this week:

$1.99 per lb for asparagus = $2.98 for 1 ½ lbs

5 lb bag of red potatoes on sale for $3.49 = $1.40 for 2 lbs needed for the recipe.

1 lb mushrooms were $2.49

IMG_0010

Grilled French Cut Rib Eye Steak

This steak has several names, such as cowboy or tomahawk. The steak can be grilled over indirect heat or it can be baked in the oven,

It is a large steak and we will only eat part of it. However, I like having leftovers that I can use for a salad or a quesadilla later in the week.

Ingredients

  • One 22 – 24 oz French Cut Rib Eye Steak
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

One hour before grilling, remove the steak from the refrigerator. Season it liberally with the salt and pepper. Let it rest at room temperature until it is time to grill.

Set the grill up for direct and indirect heat.

Put the steak on the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid, and cook the steak, turning a few times during cooking. The steak is ready for searing when it reaches 115°F  in the thickest part of the steak, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Brush the steak with some of the melted butter, then slide it to the direct heat side of the grill. Sear the steak until a brown crust forms on the steak. This should take about two minutes on each side, at which point the steak should reach 125°F for medium rare.

Remove the steak to a platter and baste i,t one last time, with the butter. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Oven Baked Method

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the steak to the skillet. Cook until seared and golden brown, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven..

Roast steak in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting frequently with the butter in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into steak registers 125° for medium-rare, about 15 minutes, or to your desired temperature.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

IMG_0012

Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine the vinegar and the brown sugar in a small cup and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet and saute the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low and add the vinegar mixture. Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glaze consistency that coats the mushrooms, 15 to 20 seconds.

IMG_0015

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, ends trimmed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Heavy duty foil

Directions

Lay the asparagus on a large sheet of heavy duty foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then with the garlic and lemon zest. Pour the melted butter over the asparagus.

Enclose the asparagus in the foil and seal the edges tightly. Place the package on the direct heat side of the grill while the steak is cooking.

Cook the asparagus for 8 minutes, turn the package over and cook another 8 minutes. Be careful opening the package because the steam will be very hot.

IMG_0008

Warm Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, ppelled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Place potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan covered 2 inches by salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

In the same saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, vinegar and red onion. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Add the drained potatoes and toss with the warm dressing, celery and parsley. Salt to taste and serve warm.



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