Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Fish

december

This month the market offers lots of festive ingredients in anticipation of the coming holidays. I find it is a great time to perk up your winter dishes with lots of fruit flavors. This week I picked up fennel and apples to enhance some pork cutlets and oranges to give swordfish a new look. Carrots make a great side dish and there are so many recipes you can make with hearty greens. Cranberries add a beautiful red color to breakfast cake that could easily be served on Christmas morning. Check the list above and try something new this week.

Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Orange Sauce

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Swordfish is a cornerstone food throughout the Mediterranean and swordfish is not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound swordfish or tuna fillets
Salt
¼ cup flour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
Black pepper

Directions

Cut the swordfish into 2 inch cubes. Salt the fish well and dust the cubes in flour. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the swordfish chunks in one layer. Sear them well on at least two sides. Give the first side 1-2 minutes, then sear other sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute each.

When the swordfish is cooked, remove it to a bowl and reserve. Add the garlic slices and sauté 30 seconds or so — the second it begins to brown, add the orange juice, zest, parsley, nuts and paprika. Toss to combine and cook 1 minute, then add the swordfish back to the pan, toss to combine and cook another 30 seconds or so. Serve at once.

Crispy Pork Cutlets with Fennel Apple Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes. Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sautéed Carrots

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2 servings

Ingredients

3 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Directions

Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the carrots, 2 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.

Cranberry Orange Breakfast Cake

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Topping

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake

2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands form the mixture into crumbs.,

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium mixing bowl, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment or on medium-low speed with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.

Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture. On low-speed (for either mixer), mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth. 

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Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Cake can be served warm. Dust with powdered sugar for a pretty presentation.

Spinach and Cheese Pie

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried dill
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 lb. frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Melted butter or butter cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in lemon zest, dill and feta cheese into spinach mixture. Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg in a small bowl. Stir until well blended. Add to the spinach mixture. Add salt, pepper and stir well.

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Working quickly so that phyllo doesn’t dry out, line the baking pan with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter after you place it in the pan. Fan the sheets out towards the edge of the pan, making sure the bottom is covered. Allow excess to hang over the sides. Spoon filling into pan. Drape remaining layers of phyllo over filling, one at a time, brushing each with butter. Brush top with butter, then neatly fold overhanging phyllo over the top, and brush with remaining butter. Bake until golden, about 1 hour. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.



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Genoa is located in the region of Liguria and it is a historical port city in northern Italy. Today, it is often overshadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade center. The birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus with its multitude of architectural gems, excellent cuisine, renovated old port, beautiful sights and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made this an interesting area to visit.

The main features of central Genoa include the Piazza De Ferrari, the Opera House and the Palace of the Doges. There is also a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Much of the city’s art is found in its churches and palaces, where there are numerous Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo frescoes. The Palazzo di San Giorgio was once the headquarters of the Bank of Saint George and it is in this area that Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa composed, The Travels of Marco Polo.

Piazza de Ferrari

Piazza de Ferrari

The city is spread out geographically along a section of the Liguria coast, which makes trading by ship possible. Before the invention of the car, train and airplane, the main outside access for the city was the sea, as the surrounding mountains made trade north by land more difficult than coastal trade. Trade routes have always connected Genoa on an international scale and the harbor was important to the merchants for their own economic success. The port of Genoa also contains an ancient Lighthouse called “La Lanterna”.

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Recently, Renzo Piano redeveloped the port for public access, restoring the historical buildings and creating new landmarks like the Aquarium, the Bigo and the “Bolla” (the Sphere). The main touristic attractions of this area are the famous Aquarium and the Museum of the Sea (MuMA). In 2007 these attracted almost 1.7 million visitors.The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest aquarium in Italy and amongst the largest in Europe. Built for the Genoa Expo ’92, it is an educational, scientific and cultural center. Its mission is to educate and raise public awareness as about conservation, management and responsible use of aquatic environments.

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Popular foods in the Genoese cuisine include Pesto sauce, garlic sauce called “Agliata” and walnut sauce called “Salsa di Noci”. There are many varieties of pasta, such as Trenette, Corzetti, Trofie, Pansotti, Croxetti and Testaroli.

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Fresh pasta (usually trofie) or trenette with pesto sauce is probably the most well-known among Genoese dishes. Pesto sauce is prepared with fresh basil, pine nuts, grated parmesan, garlic and olive oil pounded together.

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Typical pizzas include pizza with potatoes or onions, “Farinata” and Focaccia with cheese also called “Focaccia di Recco”.

Fish is a key ingredients in the Genoese cuisine and the many varieties include, Sardines, Anchovies, Garfish, Swordfish, Tuna, Octopus, Squid, Mussels and stoccafisso (Stockfish).

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Other popular dishes of Genoese tradition are tripe cooked in various sauces and Minestrone alla Genovese, a thick soup made out of several vegetables and legumes, such as potatoes, beans, green beans, cabbages, pumpkins and zucchini. Important and popular soup dishes which are common to the area include: Bagnun – anchovy soup, Ciuppin (the precursor to San Francisco’s Cioppino, Buridda – another tomato based fish soup, Zemin (a soup with garbanzo beans), Sbira, tripe soup and Preboggion, rice soup. Other specialties are “Ravioli al sugo”, Gianchetti that is sardine and anchovy based, “Tomaxelle” or stuffed veal rolls, Cappon magro – a seafood and vegetable salad, the famous “Cima alla Genovese” a pork roll, “Torta Pasqualina” a spinach torte very similar to Spanakopita, “Pandolce” a Christmas sweet bread and “Sacripantina” a Genovese Butter Cake.

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Butter Cake

Genoa Recipes To Make At Home

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Minestrone alla Genovese

Ingredients

1/4 pound cannellini or borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 leeks, washed and chopped, white part only
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups hot chicken broth
4 cups hot water, plus extra if needed
1 cup chopped raw spinach
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1/4 pound vermicelli or stelline pasta
3 tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Drain the beans from the overnight soaking water, place them in a pot, cover with water, cook about 30 minutes or until still quite al dente, and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery and potatoes and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to exude their juices.
Add the tomatoes, hot broth, hot water, beans and additional hot water to just cover the mixture. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Add the spinach, zucchini, cabbage and pasta and cook another 20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Walnut Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubes day-old rustic bread plus milk to cover
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove,
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
A generous  handful of fresh Marjoram
1/4 cup of heavy cream (or Greek Yogurt)
1 lb Pansotti or store-bought vegetable and cheese ravioli or dried pasta

Directions

Soak the bread in milk to cover until soft, then drain.
In a kitchen blender, combine nuts, the soaked bread, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and the fresh marjoram. Add garlic and process until the mixture is smooth and almost becoming a paste but not too fine. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, drizzle in all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil, processing and mixing to incorporate as you go. Once the mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and add the ricotta cheese mixing well. Then add the cream and remaining oil. Mix well until the sauce is combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Bring a large wide pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pansotti, ravioli or pasta until al dente. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander to drain, then transfer to a large bowl; reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Once all of the pansotti are cooked, add the walnut sauce and pasta cooking liquid; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Sea Bass Genoa Style

Ingredients

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound tomatoes, cut into large chunks
3/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two 3-pound whole sea bass or red snapper, or cut into fillets
1/2 cup pine nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a very large roasting pan, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, olives and basil with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Rub each fish or the fillets with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the fish in the roasting pan with the vegetables. Roast for about 30 minutes for the fillets or 40 minutes for the whole fish, until the vegetables are tender and the fish are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Spoon the pine nuts over the fish and vegetables in the roasting pan and serve right away.

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Pandolce

Ingredients

½ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
½ cup butter, softened, plus additional for greasing
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons orange flower water
3½ cups flour
1/2 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped candied orange rind
1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the milk in a small bowl. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in an electric mixer and gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the fennel seeds and coriander, then add the egg, vanilla and orange flower water; mix thoroughly. Add milk and dissolved yeast and mix. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.)
Gradually add flour, mixing thoroughly. When the dough is smooth, mix in the currants, raisins, orange rind and pine nuts (dough will be moist). Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 3–4 hours. (Dough may only rise a little; this is a dense bread.)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Wet hands (dough will be sticky) and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Shape into a 6″ round and bake until golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. To serve, cut or break into small pieces and serve with sweet wine, if desired. (Store in an airtight container.)

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faith_willinger_20001My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/

In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.

Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.

Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger.  She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.

The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.

Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

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Bellini Cocktail

Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the drinks:

  • A few raspberries, if desired, for color
  • 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine

Directions

Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.

Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart

but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.

Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.

Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.

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Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
  • Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries

Directions

Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)

Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating.  Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken.  Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.  

Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.  

The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch.  Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side.  Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

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Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Directions

If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.

When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.

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Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
  • ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

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Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
  • 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Chili pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 14–16 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.

Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.

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Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.

Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.

Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.

For the sauce:

  • 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • Fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.

Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.

Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.

If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.

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Tonight’s dinner is swordfish on the grill. I live in an area where grilling is an option all year round and many readers who live in the north can still grill through most of the fall. If an outdoor grill is not an option, certainly an indoor one would work well for swordfish. Meaty type fish, like swordfish and tuna, take well to grilling.

The recipe I use for swordfish is an old Italian style recipe for cooking fish over a fire and lots of flavor is added by marinating and topping the grilled fish with a fresh tasting sauce. I like to make the cooking easy by placing the fish on a sheet of heavy-duty foil. This prevents the fish from falling apart and protects the topping I like to add.

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Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Sauce

For 2 servings (recipe is easily doubled and tripled)

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, at Least 1/2 inch thick and about 10 oz
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Lemon Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, scatter garlic over the fish and pour the olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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When ready to grill:

Remove the garlic from the fish.

Place a sheet of heavy foil on a baking sheet and poke a few holes in the foil.

Combine the panko crumbs and Italian seasoning.

Place the swordfish on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press half the panko crumbs onto the fish. Turn the fish over and press on the remaining panko.

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Heat an outdoor grill to high. Slide the foil with the fish still on it onto the grill grates. Lower heat to medium.

Cook about 8-10 minutes until the crumbs begin to brown the and the fish is cooked through. Do not turn fish. Remove the fish to a serving plate and pour the lemon sauce over fish.

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Lemon Sauce

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

Whisk thoroughly. If made ahead, warm in the microwave when ready to serve.

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Roasted Potato Wedges

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half in thirds lengthwise. You’ll have 6 long wedges from each potato.

Place the potatoes in a baking pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano. With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together, making sure the potatoes are covered with oil.

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Spread the potatoes in a single layer with 1 cut-side down.

Bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes, turning to the other cut side after 20 minutes. Bake until they are lightly browned, crisp outside, and tender inside. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

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Romano Green Beans Sautéed with Tomato

During the summer, when these Italian beans are plentiful, I froze several pounds to use later in the year.

Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups Romano beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Half a large fresh tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Rinse the beans under cold running water. Drain, leaving any water clinging to the beans. Trim the ends and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.

Once the oil is hot, add the beans, garlic, shallots, oregano leaves, salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently until the beans are tender but retain some crispness, about 10 to 12 minutes.  

Remove the pan from heat and let the beans cool slightly. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and tomato. Allow the dish to cool to room temperature.



italia

Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.

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For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.

cagliariciviccenterFollowing the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.

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After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.

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Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.

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Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.

Pane Carasau - Sardinian Bread

Pane Carasau – Sardinian Bread

Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.

cagliari, sardinia, italy

Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.

Cagliari Style Lobster Salad

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Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional

Directions

Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.

Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.

Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines

Linguine with sunblush tomatoes, parsley, sardines and fried bread crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
  • 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste

Directions

Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.

Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.

Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.

Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola

cooking-tasting-experience-in-cagliari

Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fregola
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
  • Slices of Italian bread, toasted

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.

Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.

Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.

Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.

Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.

Pizza Sarda

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb dough
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Sliced Sardinian sausage
  • Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
  • Italian green and black olives and a few capers
  • Oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Spread the dough in a pan.

Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.

Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.

Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.

cagliarimap


november

A new month as turned the corner and you will start to find less of the warm weather foods and more of the items that grow well in cooler weather at your market. The produce that seemed most abundant to me at the market this week were carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, leeks and broccoli. Here are a few ideas on how to serve them.

Sweet Potatoes

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Purchase sweet potatoes that are a uniform in size so that they cook evenly.
Scrub them under water and dry them with a paper towel.
Spray or rub them with oil.
Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato. (This keeps them from exploding when they cook. Don’t do this too far ahead of baking or the fork holes will oxidize and turn dark.)
Put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until soft.

Toppings:

Cheese: shredded cheddar/jack, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, ricotta.
Fresh herbs and seasonings: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, chives or dill.
Meats: chili, taco meat, fajita chicken or beef, pulled pork, bacon, chopped ham, salami, mini meatballs.
Vegetables: chopped scallions or red onions; steamed broccoli, green beans, snow peas or asparagus; grilled corn; chili beans; chopped fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes; sauteed spinach, mushrooms or onions; roasted red peppers; jalapenos; thawed frozen peas; chopped avocado or guacamole; coleslaw
Sauces & dressings: salsa; barbecue sauce; gravy; nacho sauce; ranch salad dressing;  peanut sauce, marinara sauce; pesto.
Sweets: brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
Toasted Nuts: sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts.

Tuna, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 pears – cored and diced
  • 6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 12 ounces tuna, packed in water, drained
  • ½ cup peeled, grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

For the dressing: blend the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, blue cheese, tuna, carrots and onions. Pour dressing over the salad and toss, Sprinkle with pecans and serve the salad with a slice of the carrot bread (recipe below).

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Creamy Shrimp and Vegetable Pasta

I prefer to saute the vegetables separately, so that they do not overcook before adding them to the sauce.

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz short pasta, like rotini or penne
  • 12 large shrimp (16-21 size)
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of butter, add the leeks and garlic and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the leeks and garlic to a bowl and set aside.

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Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the diced zucchini and cook until tender, about 3-4

minutes. Remove the zucchini from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the leeks.

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Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and add them to the bowl with the leeks and zucchini.

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Add the remaining teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the shrimp and saute them just until they turn pink, turning them over once, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and Italian seasoning.

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Bring to a simmer. Add the cooked vegetables and heat gently.

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When the water boils, cook the pasta al dente. Drain and add it to the skillet with the shrimp mixture.

Add the grated cheese and stir gently. Serve immediately

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Carrot and Spice Quick Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar, beating well. Beat in the milk, egg, vanilla and orange extracts.

Stir in the carrots and walnuts.

Add the reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon the batter into 2 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.


shell-house-seafood_1lb-snow-crab-shrimp

Stuffing fish or shrimp with crabmeat has always been one of my favorite combinations. Having fresh seafood is crucial to the success of the dish. You can add any number of ingredients to the stuffing but I like to keep it simple so the taste of the crab comes through.

Creamed spinach is also a favorite but it often is heavy in calories. My lightened up version has all the taste of the original but is much better for you. And, what is more natural than pasta to go with the shrimp. Rice is also a good option. Orzo gives you both.

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Crab Stuffed Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the baking dish
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Two drops hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. backfin crabmeat, drained and picked over for shells
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.), butterflied

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Make the stuffing:

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes (don’t brown).

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, panko breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, lemon juice,  lemon zest, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Stir in the cooled shallot mixture. Add the crab and mix gently but thoroughly.

Stuff the shrimp:

Arrange the butterflied shrimp in the baking dish and mound a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture onto each shrimp.

Bake until the shrimp are cooked through, the crabmeat is hot, and the top of the stuffing is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

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Creamy Spinach

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2-10 oz pkgs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 lbs. fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in small saucepan and add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach and heat.

Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cheese.

Heat and stir until the cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.

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Parmesan Orzo

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • Pinch red chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and chili flakes and cook until the onions soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the orzo and white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste and 1 cup water and bring to a simmer.

Cook, stirring often, until the orzo is tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the Parmesan, butter and parsley.

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