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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: clams

This is a classic Italian American dish, but it’s also a dish that is eaten in Italy, especially in the summer. Spaghetti alle vongole (pronounced [spaˈɡetti alle ˈvoŋɡole]), Italian for spaghetti with clams, is a dish that is very popular throughout Italy, especially in Campania (where it is part of the traditional Neapolitan cuisine).

Italians usually prepare this dish two ways: in Bianco, i.e., with oil, garlic, parsley, and sometimes a splash of white wine; and in Rosso, like the Bianco but with tomatoes and fresh basil, the addition of tomatoes being more frequent in the south. Traditionally, the clams in their shells are cooked quickly in hot olive oil to which plenty of garlic has been added. The live clams open during cooking, releasing a liquid that adds flavor to the dish. The clams are then added to the al dente cooked pasta (spaghetti, linguine, or vermicelli), along with salt, black pepper (or red pepper), and a handful of finely chopped parsley.

In the Liguria region of Italy, east of Genoa, Spaghetti alle vongole (veraci) means spaghetti with tiny baby clams in the shell, no more than the size of a thumbnail, with a white wine/garlic sauce. Linguine also may be used for the pasta in preference to spaghetti.

Italian-American recipes sometimes use cream in this dish, but in its area of origin, this would be considered a big “no no”. In America cheese is sometimes added to this dish, although Italians believe it overpowers the simple flavors of the clams and of good quality olive oil.

My version is simple and allows the flavor of the clams to be the star. My fish market sells the fresh clams shucked and I usually buy these on the day I am going to make this dish. Much easier to eat if you don’t have to deal with the shells. Just a matter of preference, though.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pint of shucked clams with their liquid or 3 dozen littleneck clams
8 cups hot cooked linguine or spaghetti (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente. Drain.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in clams with their juice and all the remaining ingredients except for the pasta. Cook just until the mixture is hot, about 2-3 minutes
If using clams in the shell – Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the clams open.
Place pasta in a large serving bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to the pasta; toss well. Serve with a green salad and Italian bread.

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The idea for this tomato-based seafood stew comes from the fisherman from Genoa who immigrated to the US and settled in the Bay area of California. Cioppino was developed in San Francisco by these Italian immigrants who prepared a fish stew with what they had on their fishing boats from their daily catch.

Legend has it that requests were made as the boats came in for the day asking for any seafood to “CHIP IN ” to the pot; add Italian seasoning and hence the name: Cioppino (chip-EEN-o). Most food historians and cookbook authors don’t even try to fix the recipe in time, although all point to San Francisco as the place of origin. Cioppino wasn’t well-known beyond the Bay area (or at least outside of California) until after World War II. John Thorne…describes in the September/October 1996 issue of his newsletter, Simple Cooking, how he came upon a vintage (1921) cookbook that discusses cioppino in detail. That book, Fish Cookery, by Evelyn Spencer of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and John N. Cobb, director of the College of Fisheries at the University of Washington, offers a recipe for cioppino that had appeared three years earlier by H.B. Nidever in California Fish and Game. Thorne believes that it may be one of the first, if not the first, ever published.

In 1925 Nunzio Alioto, an Italian immigrant, set up a stall at #8 Fisherman’s Wharf to sell lunchtime provisions to the Italian laborers. His business grew and by 1932 he had constructed the first building at the corner of Taylor and Jefferson, by combining the fish stand with a seafood bar. After Nunzio passed away unexpectedly, his widow Nonna Rose and her three children took over the stall. In 1938 she installed a kitchen in the original structure and officially opened Alioto’s Restaurant. Their specialty was Cioppino.

Here is my version that I have developed over the years and one that suits my family’s taste.

Italian American Seafood Stew (Cioppino)

Serve with a green salad and some crusty Italian bread for dipping in the delicious sauce.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups fish stock
2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 pounds firm, skinless fish fillets (such as red snapper, grouper, swordfish, tuna, mahi-mahi or halibut), cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb shrimp, deveined
1 lb sea scallops
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup white wine
2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked to remove the sand

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, fish stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes.

Add the wine to a large deep skillet and bring to a boil. Add the clams, turn the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Remove the clams as they open to a covered bowl. Discard any clams that do not open. Strain the juices in the skillet through a fine mesh colander. Set aside the clams and the strained cooking liquid.

Next add the fish pieces and shrimp to the tomato sauce, pushing them down into the liquid a little. Cover the pot and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the scallops and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the opened clams and strained wine and heat for a minute or two.

Immediately scoop the stew into large bowls, garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with Italian bread.


This is one of our favorite pasta dishes. Yes, I use canned clams in broth instead of whole clams. I think this version, that I have fiddled with over the years, is now just the way we like it. Lots and lots of flavor. Be sure to cook the spaghetti al dente. A great bread and salad round out a delicious meal.

Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cans of minced clams with liquid (do not drain)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 large cloves of thinly sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
10 oz spaghetti

Directions

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning.

Turn the heat to low and let the ingredients cook slowly for a few minutes to infuse the oil. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the clams with their liquid,stir and simmer for 4 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta and parsley to the saute pan and mix thoroughly. Cook until the pasta is hot. Serve immediately in pasta bowls.

Greek Salad

4 servings

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano or Greek seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

4 cups Romaine lettuce, broken into bite sized pieces
1 cup cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup sliced deli pepper rings
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Directions

For the dressing

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

For the salad

Place the onions, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and olives over the lettuce in a salad bowl.

Crumble the feta cheese over all.

Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve in individual bowls.

Herb and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with herbs, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Leftovers can be reheated in a toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.


Portugal

This is the second post in the series Cooking the Mediterranean Countries. You can read the first post with this link.

Europe’s exploration of the world began in the 15th century and it was Portugal who pioneered what came to be known as the “Age of Discovery”. Portugal was the first to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast of Africa and the first to colonize the Azores and other nearby islands. In 1488, Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias, was the first to sail around the southern tip of Africa and in 1498 his countryman, Vasco da Gama, repeated the trip, making it as far as India. Portugal would establish ports as far west as Brazil, as far east as Japan and along the coasts of Africa, India and China. There were several reasons for the Portuguese to explore the world via the sea, but the overriding purpose was to discover a sea route around Africa to the east, with its rich promise of trade in valuable spices.

Lisbon

When Ancel Keys and his team of researchers studied and characterized the Mediterranean diet and compared it with the eating habits of most of the developed countries during that time period, they identified it as the “Diet of the Poor”. According to Portuguese gastronomist, Maria de Lourdes Modesto and Keys, Portugal was included in their observations and studies, and Keys considered Portugal to have a pure “Mediterranean” diet. However, Salazar, the leader of Portugal at the time, did not want the name of Portugal included in the “diet of the poor”.

While Portugal’s shores are technically not on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is considered to have a typical Mediterranean diet. The basics of the Portuguese diet include vegetables, fruit, good quality bread, unprocessed cereals, dried and fresh legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, etc.), dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, raisins, etc.), olive oil as the main source of fat and seafood instead of red meat.

A Portuguese breakfast often consists of fresh bread, cheese or jam, accompanied with coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine) is a very popular breakfast beverage.

Lunch, often lasting over an hour, is served between noon and 2 o’clock or between 1 and 3 o’clock, and dinner is generally served late, around 8 o’clock in the evening. There are usually three main courses for lunch and dinner. Soup is usually the first course. A well-known Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage) There are a wide variety of cheeses, usually made from the milk of sheep, goats or cows. The most famous are queijo da serra from the region of Serra da Estrela, Queijo São Jorge from the Portuguese island of São Jorge and Requeijão.

Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Fish is served grilled, boiled, poached, simmered, fried, stewed (often in clay pot), roasted or steamed. Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic was developed before the invention of refrigeration. Simpler fish dishes are often flavored with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes and meat was not often on the Portuguese table. When meat is eaten it is often in a dish with other ingredients. A typical way Portuguese eat meat is in a dish is called cozido à portuguesa, which somewhat parallels the French pot au feu or the New England boiled dinner.

Typical desserts include arroz doce (rice pudding decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard.

Santo António festivities

Some Traditional Portuguese Dishes

COZIDO A PORTUGUESA

Portuguese stew is the perfect example of the importance of using all the meat an animal can provide. This stew can include beef, pork, chicken and a variety of pork derivatives such as blood sausages and smoked pork parts.

CALDO VERDE

The most traditional of Portuguese soups is simply: onions, potatoes and kale or cabbage, cooked with garlic and olive oil in a clay pot. This soup would normally be served with a slice of “linguica” ( smoked pork sausage) and cornbread (broa).

BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU

These codfish fritters can be eaten as a starter or snack or along with rice and salad as a main dish. The fritters are made of shredded codfish, potatoes, eggs and parsley and cooked until crispy.

ALHEIRA DE MIRANDELA

Alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage made from meats that may include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit, compacted together with bread. If you have “alheira de caça” it means that it will only have game meat. This unusual sausage was created by the Jewish residents in Portugal when they were forced to convert to Christianity. Their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork but by preparing this sausage looking dish, they could easily fool others. The dish has become traditional throughout Portugal.

SARDINHAS ASSADAS

Charcoal-grilled sardines are the most typical dish served in Lisbon. You can eat it in restaurants or from a street vendor during the Santo António festivities in June. They are most often served on top of a slice of cornbread, or with a roasted pepper salad or boiled vegetables.

Cook Portuguese Style Recipes At Home

Caldeirada (Portuguese Fish Stew)

Ingredients

2 onions, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced (red or green)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 laurel leaf (bay leaf)
2 lbs (1 kg) fish ( chose from various kinds, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, skate, sea bass, monkfish, hake, haddock, etc.)
6 large potatoes, sliced
4-5 saffron threads
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

In a large pot put layers of onions, tomatoes, fish, peppers and potatoes.

Continue to make layers until all the ingredients are used. Place the parsley, laurel leaf, saffron and salt on top.

Add the wine, water and olive oil.

Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. Shake the pan once in a while.

DO NOT STIR, just shake the pan.

Clams With Chouriço (Portuguese Sausage)

Ingredients

3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
7 ounces chouriço sausage, sliced
1 sliced leeks or onion
1 chili pepper, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slice, for garnish

Directions

In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chouriço until lightly browned.

Add the leeks, chili, bay leaf and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.

Add the wine, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Add the clams cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes until all the clams are opened.

Throw out any that do not open. Garnish with lemons and parsley.

Serve with bread to soak up the juices.

Portuguese Cornbread (Broa)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast
1 ½ – 2 cups bread flour

Directions

Grind cornmeal to a powder in a food processor. You may skip this step, but the bread will not be as smooth.

Mix 1 cup of powdered cornmeal, salt and water until smooth.

Add olive oil and cool to lukewarm.

Blend in the yeast. Gradually add the remaining cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, mixing constantly.

Add more flour if the dough is still sticky. Knead until firm.

Let rise in a greased bowl until double in volume.

Shape into round loaf and let rise until double.

Bake at 350 degree Fs for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Grilled Red Snapper with Parsley Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 whole red snapper (2.2 lb or 1 kg), cleaned, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, mince
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea or coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Parsley Sauce

½ cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
4 tbsp (60 mL) minced red onion
½ cup (125 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (30 mL) capers
1 garlic clove, chopped

Directions

Preheat a barbecue or broiler until hot.

Make the parsley sauce in a bowl by whisking together the oil, vinegar, onion, parsley, capers and garlic. Set aside.

Season the fish with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and brush or drizzle with oil.

Grill or broil the fish for five minutes on each side. Transfer to a heated platter, spread with parsley sauce and serve.

Portuguese Rice Pudding, Arroz Doce

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel of one lemon cut into long strips (avoid as much of the white pith as possible)
1 cup short-grain rice (arborio is a good choice)
2 cups hot milk (you can substitute some of this with cream, if you like, for a richer consistency and flavor)
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Directions

Place the water, salt and lemon peel into a medium pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and allow the water to simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

Remove the lemon peel from the water with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the rice to the water and bring it back up to a boil.

Then reduce it to a simmer and allow the rice to absorb all of the water (about 10 minutes).

Slowly add the hot milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, to the rice mixture. After each addition, allow the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next batch of milk.

Stir frequently and keep the heat at low, so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.

Pour the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.

Chill before serving.


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.

cagliaristreets

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.

cagliaricatherdral
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.

cagliariharbor

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.

cagliaribeach

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.

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Don’t let your herbs go wild in the garden or get moldy in the refrigerator. There are lots of way to incorporate them into your recipes.

A general guideline for using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use dried herbs.

Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.

For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors.

Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor.

Storing Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator for a few days.

After washing, you can mince the herbs and place them halfway up in the sections of an ice-cube tray. Cover herbs with cold water and freeze until solid.

Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag. Drop them into soups, stews and sauces as needed.

Some Other Ways To Use Herbs

If you love a big, green salad, add fresh herbs to the mix.

Add a big handful of fresh herbs to a basic mixture of equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, stir and then remove from the heat. Once completely cooled, strain out the herbs (discard) and use the simple syrup to sweeten iced coffee or tea and cocktails.

Fresh herbs are a perfect in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. They round out the fatty and sharp flavors from the oil and vinegar.

Combine finely chopped herbs and room-temperature butter to make a spread that compliments bread or cooked meat or vegetables.

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Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 medium zucchini and 2 medium patty pan squash, diced
  • 1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups Summer Vegetable Stock (corn cob stock) (recipe here)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot; add the garlic, celery and onion. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly salt the vegetables. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.

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Add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 25 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lemon juice, corn and herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls topped with a tablespoon of sour cream.

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Creamy Herb Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This makes a great party dip with lots of fresh summer vegetables and pita chips.

It is best to process all the ingredients in the food processor with the exception of the yogurt, for the best consistency.

Use either whole or low-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (but don’t use nonfat).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Process mayonnaise, shallot, chives, basil and lemon juice in food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover dip and refrigerate until thickened, at least 1 hour. (Dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days.

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Spaghetti with Clam and Herb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams in broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red-pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. (or use the quick skillet method – see recipe here). Drain pasta and set aside.

Drain the clams over a large measuring cup. Set the clams aside. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of clam broth.

Heat oil in the same pan that the pasta was cooked in over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, herbs, hot pepper and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring as needed, until the shallots have softened.

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Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked spaghetti, turn the heat down and let the spaghetti simmer for two minutes.

Add the drained clams and let the mixture heat for a minute or two. Serve in pasta bowls with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

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Pan-Fried Herbed Pork Cutlets

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely minced herbs (any combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, chives, parsley)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 pork cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick and each weighing about 4 oz)
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Combine the herbs, fennel and salt in a shallow dish.  Place the flour in a second shallow dish. Pat chops dry with paper towels.

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Trim the cutlets of fat and pound them lightly with a meat mallet to make them uniform in thickness. Press the herbs on both sides of the cutlets and then dredge the cutlets in the flour (do not discard flour).

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Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Dredge cutlets in the flour a second time just before cooking.

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Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the pork cutlets until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 heads tender lettuce (such as Boston or Bibb), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, sage and chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • Sliced red and white radishes
  • 1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Directions

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and mustard; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, shallots, radishes and herbs. Add dressing and toss to combine. Add almonds and serve.

Variation: The dressed salad can also be placed—open-face sandwich fashion—on top of grilled bread that has brushed with olive oil.


 

A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets, gingerbread architecture, water sports, and for “the” freshest locally caught fish. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but to a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the streets are lit with vibrant sidewalk cafes that lure in passersby’s with the delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.

key west street

The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviable temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful sea backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.

Paul Menta

As a guide to the restaurant and seafood landscape, Paul Menta can tell you all there is to know about the area. A professional chef, community advocate, and pro kite surfer, Paul is the perfect person to tell you about the best secret dining spots in Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all that Key West has to offer.

Paul Menta

His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish, is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home cooks, have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, oysters, and lobster that come to the docks each day. As Paul describes it,” the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant”.  Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety, thus avoiding over fishing a specific species.

Key West 2

Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. The fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem. “Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants,” says Paul.

If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, Paul suggests visiting The Stone Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, but they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. Housed in a resort built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, home to The Stone Crab, which has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood that the restaurant catches themselves. Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stone Crab!

Key West 7

For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Paul recommends Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, to take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around. Whether you are an avid deep-sea fisherman or fisher-woman or this is your first time, Captain Moe will take you on a great adventure, not just a boat ride. From sailfish to tuna to grouper, they will lead you to the right spot.

To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where Paul himself will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood. “Being a chef and commercial fisherman I can tell you there is no better teacher of how to use, care for, store, cook and eat a product than a fishermen. They have ideas and techniques that most chefs would die for….but they have to ask…..so we spread the word to them,” says Paul.

Key West 4

When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get at home. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and, as of late, the Lion Fish. Paul’s favorite? The Hogfish. This fish is caught by spear fishing, which is a fun challenge to try. Speared by yourself or someone else, Paul suggests serving the fish whole and he affectionately calls it the “Key West Turkey”, because it can be stuffed with lobster, onions, and herbs.

While you may have heard of Key West’s conch fritters, which is fried conch meat that is actually native to the Caribbean, Paul prefers to make grouper fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty. Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions, carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning made by the Key West Spice Company and it contains celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is a simple preparation, but fresh grouper doesn’t need overpowering flavors. Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them in a sandwich or as an appetizer sitting by the beautiful water. You will find his recipe below:

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Grouper Fritters

Author: Paul Menta
Ingredients
  • 1 pound grouper
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Key Lime juice
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Coconut oil, for frying
Directions
Chop the grouper with a knife or use a food processor.

Finely dice the onions and carrots and mix with the grouper.

Add the Key West seafood seasoning.

In a medium bowl mix together the egg yolk and the key lime juice.

Add the flour and mix until a batter forms.

Use a tablespoon to make balls and fry the grouper balls in coconut oil or bake them in the oven on a sheet tray until brown. Serve with your favorite dip or sauce.

To make the grouper mixture into a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, form the mixture into larger patties or rounds and cook as described above.

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Key West Inspired: Strawberry Salad with Coconut Milk Dressing

Since it is strawberry season in Florida now, I decided to make a Key West inspired strawberry salad to add to this post. I think the recipe I created is a great example of the type of local flavors, ingredients and good eating that you will find in Key West. This salad is also a great accompaniment to some wonderful grilled Key West Pink Shrimp.

Ingredients

  • One head Butter or Bibb Lettuce
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Half of a large or one small cucumber, unpeeled
  • Lime juice

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup regular coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flavored Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the salad.

For the salad:

Wash and dry the lettuce. Place the lettuce cups on a serving plate. Leave space on the serving plate for a small bowl that can hold the dressing.

Remove the strawberry leaves, wash the strawberries and place them on paper towels to dry.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and cut each half into one inch pieces.

Cut the peeled avocado into one inch chunks and squeeze lime juice over them to prevent browning while you make the salad.

Arrange the strawberries, cucumber pieces and avocado attractively in the lettuce cups. Pour the Coconut dressing into the bowl on the serving plate.

Guests can help themselves to a lettuce cup and drizzle some of the dressing over the salad.

Key West

This post is written in collaboration with The Florida Keys and Key West and Honest Cooking Magazine.



NekesaAgola

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