The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and in the countries of Portugal, Spain and France. This series continues with the country of Italy.
The Mediterranean Diet is more than just a way of eating. It is a way of thinking about food. It embraces the concept of eating together and sharing food with others. Modern populations are pressed for time, so food is often prepared and consumed in a hurry and in isolation. However, for the Mediterranean peoples, preparing food and eating together is very important and it is an important key in why the Mediterranean Diet is successful. For Italians, food is not simply sustenance and nutrition. It is community.
The Italian cuisine is typically Mediterranean which means eating a lot of vegetables, fruit, grains, fish and some chicken. In addition, the Italians use olive oil for cooking in large amounts instead of animal fat. Olive oil combined with a high volume of vegetables prevents disease. The Italians also follow nature and only eat what is in season. If you eat according to the seasons, you will be eating a variation of different colored vegetables. Each different color has a different antioxidant, which helps prevent disease, including cancer.
There are big differences between the Italian food in the North and in the South. Italy’s Alpine and sub-alpine regions in the North produce more livestock (cows) and fewer olives. That means more butter and lard and less olive oil. Corn (maize) and rice (such as arborio) are more popular in the northern regions than pasta. In the inland cities (Milan, Turin, Bologna), fish is more expensive than it is in the coastal cities (Genoa, Venice), and therefore consumed in lesser quantities. Fish and fresh fruit cost much less in Naples and Palermo than they do in Turin and Milan.
Southern Italians eat 40% more fruit and 80% more grains than Northern Europeans do. Southern Italians eat approximately 490 grams (17 ounces) of pasta and bread a day and research studies have found that eating a lot of grains was clearly NOT harmful to the Italians. The next largest proportion of their fiber comes from tomatoes, onions, artichokes eggplants, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
The Typical Italian Daily Menu:
Breakfast: Yogurt topped with berries and walnuts, coffee or tea
Lunch: Lentil soup with Swiss chard and bread on the side
Snack: cheese, bread
Dinner: Roasted cod paired with a wheat berry salad (cooked wheat berries with olive oil vinaigrette, feta, parsley, and tomatoes) and a glass of red wine
Dessert: Fresh fruit drizzled with honey
The Typical Italian Diet:
Snacks: In Italy, snacks are usually a very light: an espresso, a pizzetta, cheese and fresh fruit are popular options.
Lunch: In Italy lunch is usually a single dish, either pasta, frittata, fish with vegetables or salad.
Dinner: A soup with fish and vegetables is typical for a first course, followed by pasta with meat or fish and salad or vegetables. Fruit is usual for dessert.
Bring the Italian Mediterranean to your table with these recipes:
Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad
- 10 oz Orzo pasta
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
- One 8 oz can Italian chickpeas
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, under oil, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil.
In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of saffron and 2 tablespoons of the hot chicken stock and stir to dissolve.
Add the saffron to the chicken stock and stir.
Add the orzo to the boiling chicken stock and let it cook for 7 minutes.
Drain the orzo, transfer to a bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.
Dice red bell pepper, red onion and mozzarella; set aside.
Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into 1/2-inch piece and set aside.
Slice the olives and drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.
In a medium bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Add the diced onion to the vinaigrette and let it marinate for 5 minutes.
Transfer all of the ingredients into the orzo and mix well, add the vinaigrette and toss well to coat.
Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley just before serving.
Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use.
Warm Farro Salad
From TN&M Magazine
- 10 ounces dried chickpeas
- 10 ounces farro
- Truffle oil to taste
- 1 Garlic clove
- 1 Tomato chopped fine
- Chili flakes
Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 hours, changing the water 3 times. (If you use canned chickpeas, rinse them thoroughly!)
Cook the chickpeas in water to cover for about 1 hour.
Cook the farro in lightly salted water until tender.
Finely chop the garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, chili flakes and oregano.
Lightly sauté the herbs in olive oil, then add the tomato.
Add the drained chickpeas and farro, drizzling with a bit of broth.
Off the flame, stir in truffle oil to taste.
Courgettes with Sultanas and Pine Nuts
From TN&M Magazine
Serves one, as a main course.
- 1 210g tin of sardines, drained, oil reserved
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sultanas (raisins)
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1.5 courgettes (zucchini), julienned
- ½ tablespoon chopped chives
- Zest and juice of half a lemon
- Black pepper to serve
Tip a little of the oil drained from the sardines into a frying pan and sauté the garlic for a few minutes until softened.
Add the julienned courgettes to another pan, and sauté over low heat in a little of the sardine oil until softened – approximately 4 minutes.
Add the sardines to the garlic pan, and break them up with the back of your wooden spoon as you stir them around the pan. Next add the sultanas, pine nuts and capers and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until the sardines are warmed through.
When the courgettes are ready add them to the saucepan and toss all the ingredients together, distributing the sauce evenly through the courgettes. Scatter in the chives, lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a little extra salt if necessary, but likely not as the capers are salty.
Transfer to a serving dish and add liberal amounts of black pepper.
White Fish Fillets With Cherry Tomatoes
By Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
- 1/2 cup chopped green olives
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- Four 6-ounce white fish fillets
- 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Combine the shallot, garlic, tomatoes, olives and oil in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside.
Place the fish in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the tomato mixture over the fish and broil until fish is opaque throughout and tomatoes have started to burst, 10–13 minutes. Serve with basil scattered over top.
Spaghetti With Clams
by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
- 6 1/2 pounds clams
- 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced, divided
- 3 small dried chiles, crumbled, divided
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Place clams in a sink filled with cold water. Scrub shells well with a coarse brush to remove any sand. Drain water and soak clams in clean water, repeating until the water remains clean.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, and 1 chile. Add half of the clams, cover, and cook over high heat, shaking pan frequently, until clams open (keep lid on pot so heat is not released, making cooking time longer).
As soon as the clams open, transfer the clams and their juices to a large bowl (discard any clams that do not open). Repeat the process with 2 tablespoons oil, remaining ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, 1 chile, and remaining clams.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but al dente; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in pot with lid over medium heat. Add remaining 1 garlic clove and remaining 1 chile; stir until garlic is fragrant and light golden, 1–2 minutes. Return clams and their juices to the pot; toss to coat and remove from the heat.
Add pasta and toss to coat evenly with juices, adding pasta cooking liquid by ¼-cupfuls if pasta is dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over and serve.
When the weather heats up, take advantage of the all the fresh produce that is available during the summer months. Many recipes for creating salads or cold soups do not require any cooking. If an ingredient needs to be cooked, do it early in the day and serve it chilled. Below are a few ideas to keep you cool, including a delicious dessert.
Cold Appetizer Plate
Burrata Cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Olives, Roasted Peppers, Fresh Melon
The breasts can be cooked early in the day and the rest of the recipe can be prepared later. This makes enough so that there will be plenty for several meals. Serve over lettuce with sliced tomatoes and cut up veggies.
Cooking the chicken breasts
1 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Roast for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer .
Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Remove the meat from the bones and save the skin and bones to make chicken broth.
Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.
For the salad
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla) onion
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together in a mixing bowl with a cover.
Add the celery and onion; stir, Add the chicken and mix carefully to keep the chicken from breaking up.
Fold in the pecans and grapes. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and chill.
Triggerfish with Caper Sauce
Triggerfish were once ignored by commercial fishermen, however, they are now considered among the finest fish on the Gulf seafood menu. Their clean white meat carries a uniquely sweet flavor when cooked. Since this fish lives in warm waters, you might not find it in your area. Use any thin mild white fish fillets in the recipe below, if you cannot find triggerfish. If you do see it in your fish market, be sure to give it a try. I like to serve this dish with the tomato salad shown below.
2 ounces butter, room temperature
1 lb triggerfish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces white wine
Hot sauce, to taste
Half a small onion, chopped fine or one shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed
Add the butter to a saute pan or skillet and place over medium heat.
Season the fish with the salt and pepper and dredge the fillets in all-purpose flour.
Place each fillet in the skillet and saute until light golden brown.
Add a few drops of hot sauce to the pan as the fish browns.
After the first side is golden brown, turn the fish over and cook until the second side is golden brown.
Remove the fish from the pan to a plate. Reduce the heat to low and add the wine to the skillet.
Add the onion or shallot and stir slowly but continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers.
Continue to stir until a thin sauce forms. Return the fish to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the fillets.
Place the fish on serving plates and spoon any sauce in the skillet onto the fish.
Tomato Feta Salad
4-5 medium plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate.
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and parsley and toss well.
Pour the dressing over the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 12 squares
1 (3-4 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
Two 3-ounce packages ladyfingers, split
1/3 cup chocolate liqueur (Kahlua)
1/3 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
One 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Do ahead: Prepare the chocolate pudding mix according to the directions on the package. Chill in the refrigerator.
Mix the coffee and Kahlua together in a shallow dish.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form.
Add the chocolate syrup and mix until just combined.
To assemble the tiramisu:
Line the bottom of an 8 x 8 x 2-inch or 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish with some of the ladyfingers dipped in the espresso/Kahlua mixture.
Spoon a thin layer of chocolate pudding over the ladyfingers in the baking dish.
Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the chocolate pudding layer, spreading it evenly.
Sprinkle with grated bittersweet chocolate.
Top with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in espresso, followed by chocolate pudding and the mascarpone cheese mixture.
Cover and chill for 6 to 24 hours. Sift cocoa powder over the top before serving.
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.
Serve this fish entrée with basil pesto pasta and yellow summer squash.
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
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.
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
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
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.
For the pork
4 boneless pork chops, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Serve this quick cooking chicken entrée with noodles dressed with butter, Parmesan cheese and parsley and a green vegetable.
Two 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded until thin and even
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
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.
The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients.
Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border in the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.The area also includes the Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera.
The food of Provence resembles more closely the cuisine of Italy, Greece and Spain than typical Parisian fare. Emphasis is on locally grown vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and olive oil, Provence is the birthplace of three well-known dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille.
There are many common traits between the French diet and the other Mediterranean countries, not only with regards to food choices, but also in the organization and structure of meals during the day. For example, there is no snacking in France, they eat three meals a-day, each with three courses, they eat together, portion control is common and they avoid “junk food”.
While the French embrace a wide range of foods, they keep things simple and like to use cheese, eggs, potatoes, butter, yogurt, as well as pasta and bread in their meal preparation. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France even at informal dinner parties.
Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditional French dishes, many which come with long histories, regional variations and modern adaptations. The French cuisine is to a great degree a culinary art. Traditional French cuisine relies on basic combinations and together with butter are the basic ingredients for the creation of their well-known sauces, appetizers and entrees. Full fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, in combination with small quantities of meat or poultry are the main ingredients in French recipes. Garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs are used to enhance those ingredients. Such recipes often include:
Appetizer Course: Provençal tomatoes, Scallops Provencal, Tapenade
Soup Course: Bouillabaisse, French Onion Soup, Saffron Mussel Bisque
Main Course: Coq au Vin, Lobster Thermidor, Ratatouille, Poulet de Provençal
Dessert Course: Orange Creme Brulee, Plum Clafouti, Poached Pears
Traditional French Recipes
Madame Saucourt’s Ratatouille
Hotel Mas des Serres in Saint Paul de Vence.
Source: Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert
Ratatouille, from the southeastern French region of Provence, is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients usually consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and herbs.
5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme
Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodible plate for at least 1 hour
Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.
In a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup olive oil until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer for 11/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, “deglaze” with a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.
Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.
Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a bowl to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the drained oil in the bowl to the pan.
Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at a simmer for 11/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid.
Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for another use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.
“Although coquilles St-Jacques simply means “scallops” in French, in the idiom of American cooks, the term is synonymous with the old French dish of scallops poached in white wine, placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell, covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and gratinéed under a broiler. This rich, classic recipe was a signature dish of most of the small French restaurants in New York when I came here in the late 1950s. While working at Le Pavillon back then, I must have made it thousands of times. These days, most chefs, myself included, have moved away somewhat from that dish, favoring lighter preparations. But I’ll tell you one thing: last time I made coquilles St-Jacques, it was for students at Boston University. I prepared two dishes for them: scallops cooked in a modern way, served with a green herb salad, and also the classic, gratinéed version. Now, these were not chefs-in-training; they didn’t know what they were supposed to like. And there wasn’t one student who didn’t choose the old way over the new. It just goes to show: Truly good food never really goes out of style.” —Jacques Pepin, chef, cookbook author, and PBS-TV cooking series host
8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Gruyère
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Heat mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2⁄3 of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir the parsley and minced tarragon into the mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper.
Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and 3⁄4 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.
Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 10 minutes; strain.
Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops.
Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.
This hearty dish from southwestern France, known as a cassoulet, is a one-pot meal. A slow-simmered mix of beans, pork sausages, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck topped with a bread crumb crust , takes its name from the earthenware casserole in which it was traditionally made.
1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 duck legs
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs
Soak the beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight.
Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.
Sear the duck legs in 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown the sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.
Heat the oven to 300˚F. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat.
Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook the cassoulet until the crust is golden, about 5 minutes.
Credit for inventing Crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set the sauce aflame when serving this dessert to the Prince of Wales. Once the fire subsided, the sauce was so delicious that the prince asked that the dish be named for a young girl in his entourage, Suzette.
For the Crêpes
6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed
For the Sauce
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons Cointreau
1 tablespoons Kirsch
1 teaspoon orange flower water
5 tablespoons cognac
Make the crêpe batter:
Whisk together flour and eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare the sauce:
Use a vegetable peeler to remove rind from 2 of the oranges, avoiding pith; mince rind and set aside. Juice all the oranges and set juice aside. In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1⁄2 cup sugar on high-speed of a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rind to butter and beat for 1 minute. Gradually drizzle in juice, 2 tbsp. of the Cointreau, Kirsch and orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.
Make the crêpes:
Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1⁄4 cup batter. Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute. Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.
Melt orange butter sauce in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour remaining Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match. Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.
You most likely have some favorite recipes that you like to cook with June’s wonderful produce. I certainly do but I also like to try out new ideas. My weekly CSA share began on Memorial Day weekend and so I have plenty of June produce to experiment with at this time. Here are a few of my ideas. Give them a try.
Shrimp and Bell Peppers in Orange Sauce
1 pound Gulf shrimp (wild caught), peeled and deveined
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the peppers and onions to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until tender. Remove the vegetables to a bowl.
Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp over when one side turns pink. Cook the second side. Push the shrimp to one side of the pan.
Whisk the cornstarch and orange juice together. Add the honey.
Pour the mixture into the pan. Turn the heat up slightly. Bring the liquid ingredients up to a boil. Turn the heat back down to medium-high and push the shrimp into the sauce.
Add the peppers and onions. The sauce should have thickened and the shrimp should be completely cooked.
Corn on the Cob
Fresh Corn and Ricotta Cakes
Makes 8 cakes
2 cups fresh corn kernels
½ cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup self-rising unbleached flour
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl combine the corn, chives, ricotta, eggs, flour and a pinch of black pepper.
Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin layer of olive oil. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop the corn mixture into the skillet. Do not crowd the cakes in the pan.
Cook the cakes on both sides until golden brown. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve with sour cream or a tomato salsa, if desired.
Pizza With Basil Pesto and Ricotta
1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
7 oz fresh mozzarella balls, sliced
Place the sliced tomatoes on paper towels to remove some of their moisture.
Oil a large pizza pan and stretch out the dough to fit the pan.
Spread the basil pesto over the dough.
Spread the ricotta over the pesto and layer the sliced tomatoes over the ricotta.
Place the pizza in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Return the pizza to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until the cheese melts and the crust is cooked.
Remove the pizza from the oven and let rest about 5 minutes before cutting into slices.
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups amaretto cookie crumbs or crush your favorite cookies
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups (Two 8 oz packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the topping:
In a small sauce pan combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and water. Place the pan over medium high heat. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the blueberry mixture for 20 minutes or until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Let the blueberry sauce cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator until the cheese pie is ready.
To make the crust:
Select a pie pan whose inside top dimension is at least 9 inches and whose height is at least 11/4 inches. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the crust by stirring together the butter and cookie crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan, making a thicker layer on the bottom than on the sides.
To make the filling:
Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Set the pie pan on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the crumb crust.
Place the cheesecake in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the crust 1 inch from the edge reads between 165°F and 170°F. The filling won’t look entirely set in the center.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. Once the cake is cool, refrigerate it, covered, until completely chilled.
Just before serving, spoon a little of the blueberry topping over the cheesecake and cut into slices.
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), chopped and toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Place the grated zucchini on a paper towel to drain while you prepare the other ingredients.
Butter and flour a 9 x 4 1/2-inch metal loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix the 3/4 cup sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the 2 tablespoons sugar.
Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.
The zucchini loaf can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen in plastic and foil for up to 1 month.
Some of the US’s best blue crab is hand-picked here along the Gulf Coast, mostly gathered from the Bayou La Batre vicinity. With the volume of crab needed to supply our local seafood markets, multiple small crab pickers along the coast are used when gathering the freshest crab meat. Crabs are readily available along the Gulf coast as soon as the water is warm, so the season usually runs from March to November.
Over fishing has made blue crab difficult to come by in many areas of the US.
According to the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation, some rivers, estuaries and parts of upper Mobile Bay near the delta are closed to the use of crab traps. These spots serve as a nursery, giving small crabs a chance to grow before they move out into Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound, where they can be harvested. Other areas are closed to crabbing to protect the diamondback terrapin–turtles with concentric, diamond-shaped markings–which can get caught in the crab traps and drown.
Established in 2012, G.U.L.F. is the sustainable seafood program under the Audubon Nature Institute. G.U.L.F. works with the seafood supply chain, from harvesters to retailers, fishery management agencies, and consumers to ensure that fisheries in our region thrive for the benefit of future generations. Through education and outreach, restaurant engagement, fishery improvement projects, and third-party assessment and certification, G.U.L.F. pledges to promote sustainable practices, foster a community invested in Gulf fisheries, and create a more stable and confident fishing industry. The G.U.L.F. Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification is a regionalized model measuring the responsible practices for the sustainable harvest of our vibrant Gulf of Mexico seafood. The Louisiana blue crab fishery was the first to go through the process and receive the G.U.L.F. RFM certification. Global Trust, an independent assessment body specializing in the certification of fisheries, carried out the evaluation and awarded the certification.
Fisheries certified under the umbrella of G.U.L.F. will gain credibility in a marketplace with ever-increasing demands for sustainability verification. In recent years, large retailers, such as Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Winn-Dixie and Publix have developed strict sourcing policies that require sustainability assurances before purchasing seafood. This certification demonstrates that Louisiana blue crab is responsibly harvested for sustainable use, thereby safeguarding both the seafood itself and the industry that relies on it.
I think crab cakes should taste like crab and not bread. So, I only use breadcrumbs on the outside of the cakes to give them a coating and not in the filling. Of course, this makes them more fragile, so I bake them instead of frying them – which is so much more healthy for us.
1 pound fresh lump crab
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Old Bay (seafood) seasoning
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Remove any cartilage from the crabmeat. Do not break up the lumps.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce, dry mustard and salt.
Add the diced bell pepper, celery and onion. Mix gently. Fold in the crab meat.
Chill the mixture, covered, for several hours in the refrigerator.
To make the remoulade sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients, cover and store the sauce in the refrigerator until serving time.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the crab cakes:
Spread about 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs on a large sheet of waxed paper.
Divide the crab mixture into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball with your hands and place on the breadcrumbs.
Press down gently on each ball to form a cake and cover the entire surface with breadcrumbs. Add more breadcrumbs as needed.
Lightly oil the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the breaded crab cakes on the baking sheet.
Put the cookie sheet into the oven and bake until the crab cakes are golden brown on each side, about 20 minutes.
Turn the crab cakes over half way through. Use a wide spatula and turn the cakes gently since they are fragile/
Serve with the Remoulade Sauce.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn the crab cakes over, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until nicely browned.
The following salads go well with crab cakes.
Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad
2 large plum (Roma) tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Alternate the tomato and cucumber slices on a serving, Sprinkle the feta, shallots and oregano together.
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Southwestern Corn Salad
Make this salad a day ahead so the ingredients can marinate.
6 ears fresh corn on the cob
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano peppers, chopped
Remove the corn from the cobs and place into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well.
Cover and chill overnight. Stir well before serving.