1 garlic clove grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
l1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
3 mini red sweet peppers, finely chopped
10 oz raw shrimp (about 18), peeled and chopped
6 oz firm white fish such as sea bass, chopped
8 oz lump crab meat
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1 cup whole milk Ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for the top
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
24 large pasta shells
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning
Cook the jumbo shells in boiling salted water for two minutes less than the package instructions. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them for a minute or two. Place the shells on kitchen towels while you make the filling.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.Butter a large baking dish
In a skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add in garlic, onion, celery, and mini peppers, and cook until the vegetables are softened; about 3 minutes. Add in shrimp and sea bass and season with Old Bay seasoning. Cook until the shrimp become pink and the sea bass is cooked; about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, egg, and fresh ground black pepper. Stir in cooled shrimp mixture and crab meat.
In the same skillet, you cooked the shrimp in, bring the cream and milk to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, add the seafood seasoning. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the flour and parmesan cheese. Return to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Fill each pasta shell with 2 tablespoons of the seafood filling and place them in the baking dish.
Pour the sauce over the filled pasta shells in the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Serve with a green mixed salad.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 lb sea bass fillets, ½-inch thick, cut into smaller portions
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 scallion, minced
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1 seeded jalapeno pepper, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Season the fish with salt and pepper and brush the fillets with some of the sauce.
Heat a medium skillet and sear the fish on both sides about 2 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to low and pour the sauce over the fish and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Creamy Corn Stuffed Tomatoes
4 firm, medium-sized tomatoes
2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 4 ears)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced scallion
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut off tops of tomatoes; remove seeds and pulp with a spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch wall of flesh around the inside of the tomato. Invert tomatoes on a paper towel to drain while preparing the filling.
Combine the corn with the rest of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Season the inside of the tomatoes with salt and black pepper and fill with a generous amount of corn filling (amount will vary depending on the size of the tomatoes). Arrange stuffed tomatoes in a baking dish.
Bake tomatoes until the filling is hot and the cheese has melted 15–20 minutes.
Sweet Potato Patties
The potato cakes can bake in the oven along with the tomatoes in this dinner menu.
Olive oil cooking spray
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup blanched finely ground almond flour (1 oz)
Cooked and mashed sweet potato (2 sweet potatoes)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, sea salt, black pepper, honey, scallions, and thyme. Mix in the almond flour. Add the mashed sweet potato to the egg mixture. Mix well.
Using a ¼ cup scoop or measuring cup, form six mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Flatten with a spatula. Spray with oil.
Bake the sweet potato cakes for 15 minutes. Turn them over, spray with more oil and bake until browned and set, 10 more minutes. Serve immediately.
Sea Bass with Spinach Pesto
1 lb Sea Bass fillets cut into ½ inch thick pieces
4 tablespoons butter
Spinach pesto, recipe below
1/2 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mix the flour and seasonings together. Coat the fish fillets in the flour mixture. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Place the coated fillets in the butter and cook for 3-4 minutes per side. Cover each fillet with several tablespoons of spinach pesto and heat for 2 or 3 minutes.
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup pine-pignoli (or any nuts) nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse.
Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, to taste.
Tomato Mozzarella Salad
2 tomatoes, sliced into ½ inch thick slices
5-6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, ½-inch thick
5-6 Pitted oil-cured olives
Extra-virgin olive oil
Arrange the tomato slices alternating with mozzarella slices on each serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and top with olives.
Oven Roasted Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
Coarse sea salt to taste
Crushed black pepper to taste
!/4 teaspoons roasted garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Remove the woody ends of the asparagus spears.
Arrange the asparagus spears on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the Parmesan cheese.
Bake until the cheese begins to brown and the spears are tender about10-12 minutes.
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass With Lemon Sauce
1 lemon halved, seeds removed
2 (6-7ounces each) Chilean Sea Bass fillets skin removed, each cut in half
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or oregano
Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot, add lemon cut-side down. Coat fish in flour that has been mixed with salt and pepper. When the lemon just begins to brown, about 3 minutes, push them to one side of the skillet and add oil and fish. Cook until fish is browned and just opaque in the center, about 4 minutes per side, lowering heat if lemons and fish brown too quickly. Transfer fish and lemon to a serving plate.
Place the skillet over low heat and add shallot. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook for 1 minute. Squeeze 2 lemon halves through a strainer into the skillet. Remove from heat and swirl in butter. Stir in thyme and pour the sauce over the fish.
1 cup pearled farro
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
Place the farro, apple cider, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the farro is tender. Drain the farro and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Discard the bay leaves.
Stir in the herbs and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
2-10 oz packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium and let the spinach cook slowly until tender and silky., about 15 minutes.
This classic Italian sauce is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the Lazio version. Spices are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). It is usually served with spaghetti but we like it with seafood.
Seafood in an Italian Spicy Tomato Sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 fish fillets,(I used sea bass) (about 1 1/2 inches thick 4 ounces each)
4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
26 oz container finely diced Italian tomatoes (I used the Pomi brand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
For the sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet.
Add the anchovy paste and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and continue to stir.
Pour in the tomatoes, oregano and basil and heat to a simmer. Add the olives and capers and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.
For the fish
Season the fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly flour the fish shaking off extra flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Brown the fish fillets and shrimp on both sides.
Pour a cup to 1 ½ cups of sauce over the fish in the small skillet and cover the skillet. Heat for 2-3 minutes. Save the remaining sauce for pasta.
Place a piece of grilled bread in each serving bowl. Divide the fish evenly and place it on top of the bread. Spoon the sauce over each portion and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.
Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.
Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.
The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.
Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.
The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.
Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.
Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.
In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.
Dinner Party Menu For Six
Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)
- 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.
Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.
When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.
Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)
- 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Warm water
Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.
Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.
Heat the oven to 400° F.
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.
Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.
Tubettini con le Cozze
(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)
- 2 lbs mussels
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)
Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.
Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.
Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.
Roasted Striped Bass
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
- 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled
- 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.
Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.
Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.
Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.
Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.
Ingredients for the pastry dough
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- A pinch of salt
- 2 cups of water
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 large eggs
Ingredients for the custard filling
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- Confectioner’s sugar
To make the pastry:
In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.
Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.
To make the custard:
In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.
Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.
- Delicious Everyday Puglian Wines (selectitaly.com)
- Calzone di cipolla alla pugliese (Puglian Onion Pie) (memoriediangelina.com)
Key ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine include olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet — one of the world’s healthiest — are hard to ignore. These people are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.
Numerous research studies suggest that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be many: improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re trying to eat foods that are better for your heart, start with the principles of Mediterranean cooking.
Stock your pantry and cook at home.
Use whole, unprocessed ingredients and control portion sizes, salt and calories.
Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.
Love Italian food, then a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. Typical standbys are Penne with Vodka Sauce or Pasta with Broccoli Rabe.
Experiment with “real” whole grains that are still in their “whole” form and haven’t been refined. Quinoa, a grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet, cooks up in just 20 minutes, making it a great side dish for weeknight meals. Barley is full of fiber and it’s filling. Pair it with mushrooms for a steamy, satisfying soup. A hot bowl of oatmeal with some fresh summer berries is perfect for breakfast. Even popcorn is a whole grain—just keep it healthy by eating air-popped corn and forgo the butter (try a drizzle of olive oil instead).
Supplement your intake with other whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread and pasta. Look for the term “whole” or “whole grain” on the food package and in the ingredient list—it should be listed as the first ingredient. But if you still find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites, phase in a whole grain by using whole-grain blends of pastas and rice or mixing whole grains half-and-half with a refined one (like half whole-wheat pasta and half white).
By displacing meat at some meals, you can lower your saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonoids. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once a week. Swap out most of your red meat and replace it with skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. Start by making a few small changes.
Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health. Make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; for example, use a little diced pancetta in a tomato sauce for pasta. If you do have a hankering for a steak, it’s OK to indulge, just do so occasionally and choose a lean cut, like top loin, sirloin, flank steak or strip steak and limit your portion size to 4 ounces.
Use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. There are many dessert recipes now that use olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with balsamic vinegar is delicious for dipping bread and is a healthier alternative to butter. Other plant-based oils, such as canola or walnut oil, are also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Aim for 4 to 8 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is 1/2 to 2 cups depending on the vegetable. Pick vegetables in a variety of colors to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins. Start your day out with a spinach and Cheddar omelet, have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch and have roasted carrots and a green salad for dinner. Big green salads are a great way to include several vegetable servings at once.
Snack on a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds in place of chips, cookies or other processed snack foods, which are often loaded with sugars, saturated fat and trans fats. Calcium-rich low-fat cheese or low-fat and nonfat plain yogurt with fresh fruit are other healthy and portable snacks.
Generally a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, fresh fruit is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth. If it helps you to eat more, drizzle slices of pear with honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit. Keep fresh fruit visible at home and keep a piece or two at work so you have a healthful snack when your stomach starts growling. Lots of grocery stores stock exotic fruit—pick a new one to try each week and expand your fruit horizons.
Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque buildup. Remember, “1 drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.
Eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. Instead of gobbling your meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table with your family and friends to savor what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. You’re more apt to eat just until you’re satisfied then until you’re busting-at-the-seams full. This is the perfect time of year to make some changes to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and local fresh caught fish is more available. These delicious dinners can all be enjoyed during a leisurely, relaxing dinner on the patio on a warm summer evening.
Fusilli with Green Beans, Pancetta and Parmigiano
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 lb. whole grain fusilli or other twisted pasta
- 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/2 -inch squares (3/4 cup)
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled but kept whole
- 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, put the pancetta in a cold 10-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the pancetta starts sizzling, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the pancetta until golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the pancetta has rendered a lot of its fat, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan.
Add the beans to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and season the beans with salt and pepper. With the pan still over medium heat, add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the olive oil. Toss to combine. Add another 1/4 cup pasta water and 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano. Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Grind black pepper over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Sea Bass With Citrus-Olive-Caper Sauce
Buy Eco-friendly Mid-Atlantic Sea Bass
- 8 sea bass fillets (about 5 oz each), skin on
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 lemons, peeled and thinly sliced, segments halved
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
Place broiler pan as close to heating element as possible and heat 5 minutes. On a plate, coat fillets on both sides with 1 tablespoons oil. Carefully remove pan from broiler and place on the stovetop.
Arrange fillets on pan, skin side down; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Broil fish 6 minutes.
In a bowl, mix together lemon slices, juice, oregano, capers, olives, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoons pepper.
Place fish on platter; top with citrus-olive-caper sauce.
Grilled Chicken with Feta and Red Pepper Sauce
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Red pepper sauce:
- 2 pounds grilled red bell peppers
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 4 ounces sliced feta cheese (4 slices)
Spinach leaves for serving plate
To prepare chicken: place chicken, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; place in refrigerator and marinate 2 to 24 hours.
To grill the peppers: preheat grill. Place peppers on the grill and cook, turning until charred all over. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag to let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers.
To prepare sauce: place grilled peppers, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.
Preheat grill to medium and oil grill grates. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken 7 minutes, turn, place feta cheese slices on top of the chicken and cook 7 more minutes or until cooked through.
Arrange spinach on serving plate, top with chicken and serve with red pepper sauce.
Orange and Olive Salad
Serve with flatbread or pita.
- Two heads romaine lettuce
- 1 bunch arugula
- 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted, sliced in half
- 1/2 red onion, diced small
- 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
- Orange slices and orange zest for garnish
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup orange juice
Wash and dry the romaine and arugula. Toss in a large bowl with the olives, onion and oranges.
Add freshly ground black pepper to taste (the olives may be salty, so don’t add any salt at this point).
Whisk the dressing ingredients, seasoning it to taste. Slowly pour some of the dressing over the salad while tossing well to coat all.
Be careful not to use too much dressing for the amount of greens. Garnish with very thin slices of orange and orange zest.
Spaghettini with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Almonds
- 1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, cored and finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
- 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Large pinch of crushed red pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup roasted almonds
- 3 large oil-packed anchovies
- 1 large garlic clove, smashed
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 pound swhole grain paghettini (thin spaghetti)
In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.
Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage
- 1 cup rice
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large cabbage
Cooking sauce for cabbage rolls
- 3 containers (26-28 oz. size) tomatoes
- 4 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 2 cups of water to boil, adding the rice and turmeric. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Cook the lentils in 3 cups of boiling water until soft.
Saute the onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil in a skillet.
Mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
For the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, rice, lentils, almonds and raisins.
Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup filling, beginning at the thick end of the leaf. Fold this end over the filling, folding the edges in as you go to make a neat roll.
Place the rolls in one or two casseroles, covering with the sauce.
Bake the cabbage rolls covered at 350 degrees F, 45-60 minutes until cabbage is tender. Cool slightly and serve from the dish they were baked in.
- Diet from Crete for Healthy Heart (medindia.net)
- Mediterranean chicken recipe with capers, olives and tomatoes (voxxi.com)
- Olive oil and nuts make you smarter, study finds (mnn.com)
- The Mediterranean Diet – how to do it properly (siciliangodmother.wordpress.com)
- Brain-boosting Mediterranean diet could slow down the onset of dementia more affectively than low-fat alternative (dailymail.co.uk)
For centuries, people have rendered fat, squeezed olives, collected cream and caught fish to obtain the fatty acids their brains, nervous systems, immune systems and body cells need to function well. Luckily for us, things are a bit easier these days and the oils we need for good health are readily available. Not all oils are created equal, though. No one oil can be used for all things; instead, each has its distinct place in the kitchen.
Keep these basic categories in mind when you’re cooking:
For baking: Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best.
For frying: Because they stand up well to the heat, peanut, palm and sesame oil are ideal for frying.
For sautéing: canola, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.
For dipping, dressings and marinades: When it comes to making dressings and marinades, or finding oil that’s perfect to serve alongside crusty bread for dipping, you’re looking for flavor. For this purpose look to avocado, flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.
TYPES OF OILS
Avocado Oil: Pressed from avocados, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated, making it a heart-healthy choice. Use it in salad dressings or to saute fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.
Canola Oil: A cousin to cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s a variety of rapeseed that’s part of the mustard family. It’s beneficial due to its fatty acid profile and omega-3 and low saturated fat contents. It is perfect for light cooking, sauces and desserts, such as, homemade mayonnaise or tender cakes.
Coconut Oil: Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is ideal for light and subtly flavored dishes. This oil is particularly good to use for making popcorn and hash browns.
Corn Oil: Most corn oil is extracted only from the germ of the corn kernel and is golden yellow in color; unrefined oil will have a darker color and richer corn taste. Use in salad dressings and dips with stronger flavors like peppers or garlic.
Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of the winemaking industry. Use it on salads and raw veggies or in dips, sauces and salsas. Mix grapeseed oil with garlic and basil, then drizzle it on toasted bread.
Olive Oil: A mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and one of the oldest known culinary oils, olive oil is a heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Extra virgin olive oil results from the first cold-pressing of olives. Regular olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over hummus or grilled vegetables.
Peanut Oil: Peanut oil’s high monounsaturated content makes it heart-healthy. Peanut oil is excellent for frying, light sauteing and stir-fries.
Sesame Oil: The seed of the sesame plant provides sesame oil, which has a high antioxidant content. Unrefined sesame oil is a key flavor component in sauces or dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat frying and toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips.
Fats and oils also play crucial roles in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing raw materials for making hormones and contributing to a healthy immune system. But remember everything in moderation. Since all fats are calorie-rich, remember not to overindulge.
Fats are one of the three major nutrients of the human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and protein.Triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body. Think of fats as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape. Every triglyceride “brick” consists of a mixture of three fatty acids — saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
A particular fat is defined by the combination of fatty acids that make up its “bricks.” The triglyceride bricks in olive oil, for example, have many more monounsaturated fatty acids than it does saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, making olive oil a monounsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are more chemically stable than polyunsaturated fat but not as stable as saturated fat. This means they keep better than polyunsaturated oils but not as well as saturated oils.
They are most appropriate for light cooking or used raw in salad dressings and the like. Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut and sesame. When stored at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are typically liquid, but they are likely to solidify when stored in the refrigerator.
Due to their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to rancidity than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish oils. These are liquid at room temperature.
Many experts don’t recommend polyunsaturated oils for cooking because they are so easily damaged by heat. They are best used in their raw form, and used quickly at that. Never keep polyunsaturated oils beyond their expiration date. If cooking is necessary, use low temperatures. Polyunsaturated oils should be stored refrigerated in dark bottles.
Saturated fats are the most chemically stable, giving them a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. Typically solid at room temperature, saturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and tropical oils.
In general, animal fats such as butter, cream and tallow are predominantly saturated, however, two of the most highly saturated fats — coconut oil and palm kernel oil — come from vegetable sources. Furthermore, animal fats like lard, chicken fat and duck fat are predominantly monounsaturated, while fish oils are predominantly polyunsaturated. And, it is interesting to note that the fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the animal.
Animal fats have their place in the kitchen. Many believe that lard makes the best pie crust, and several traditional Hispanic dishes rely on lard for their distinctive flavor. Butter is the most common animal fat in the kitchen and good quality butters are available, as are cream and other dairy-based products used in cooking.
Trans fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th. century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat and pressure. This saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids. This is done to make vegetable oils, which are normally liquid at room temperature, solid and more chemically stable, thereby extending the shelf life of products in which they are used. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.
Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.
The Trans Fat Labeling Law
Effective since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food vendors who are not affected by the labeling law.
Some packaged products may still contain significant amounts of trans fats, such as: margarine, shortening, baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers and snack foods such as potato chips.
SOME FACTS ABOUT OIL
Heat and light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. For the record, you’ll know your oil is rancid if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should toss it and buy fresh oil.
Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy or solidified when refrigerated. It doesn’t affect their quality at all. A few minutes at room temperature and the oil will be back to normal.
Heating oils beyond their smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals — is never a good idea. Always discard oil that’s reached its smoke point, along with any food with which it had contact. Unsure of an oil’s smoke point? Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the correct temperature.
Some oils are refined to make them more stable and suitable for high temperature cooking. Keep in mind, though, that the process removes most of the flavor, color and nutrients from the oils, too. That’s why refined oils are acceptable for baking and stir-frying, where their high smoke point and neutral flavors are a plus. On the other hand, unrefined oil is simply pressed and bottled so it retains its original nutrient content, flavor and color. Unrefined oils add full-bodied flavor to dishes and are best used for low- or no-heat applications.
Recipes To Try
Whole-Wheat Ginger Scones
Coconut oil is the perfect non-dairy fat to use for scones and other baked goods. These scones have the same rich, flaky texture that scones made with butter have, along with a subtle and pleasing coconut flavor.
- 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or mild honey
- 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir in the sugar. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle.
Add the coconut oil to the food processor or mixer and pulse several times or beat on low speed until it is distributed throughout the flour and the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal; if you’re using a mixer, it will still have some lumps.
Beat together the buttermilk and agave or honey in a small bowl and add to the food processor or mixer. Add the ginger and process or mix at medium speed just until the dough comes together.
Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares, then cut the squares in half on the diagonal to form 12 triangular pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: 12 scones.
GRAPESEED AND WALNUT OILS
Radicchio Salad With Beets and Walnuts
Walnut vinaigrette is especially good with bitter greens like radicchio.
For the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (to taste)
- 1 very small garlic clove, puréed
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil
- Freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
- 4 small golden or red beets, roasted, peeled and cut in wedges
- 1 large or 2 small radicchio,
- 2 tablespoons broken walnuts
- 4 to 6 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
- 2 teaspoons minced chives
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, Dijon mustard and garlic until combined well. Whisk in the grapeseed oil and the walnut oil. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.
Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Citrus and Avocado Oil
Delicately flavored avocado oil can lose its personality when heated; pour a touch of the oil over food just before serving.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
- 2 oranges
- 2 pink grapefruits
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 4 – 6-ounce skinless fillets white or Mexican sea bass or grouper (about 1″ thick)
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into wedges
- 4 tablespoons avocado oil
Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a small sharp knife, cut off all peel and white pith from fruit. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juices from membranes; discard membranes. Drain fruit, reserving 1/2 cup juices. Return segments and juices to bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Pat fish dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add grapeseed oil. Add fish; cook without moving, occasionally pressing fish gently with a spatula to keep all of surface in contact with pan, until fish is golden brown and releases easily from pan, 4–5 minutes.
Turn fish, transfer to oven, and roast until just opaque in the center, 3–5 minutes.
Place fruit and avocado on plates. Top with fillets. Spoon 2 tablespoons citrus juices over fruit on each plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon avocado oil over fish and fruit.
Sear-Roasted Pork Chops with Balsamic-Fig Sauce
Be sure that the oven has reached 425°F before starting to sear—most ovens take 20 to 30 minutes to heat up thoroughly.
Serves four. Sauce yields about 1/2 cup, enough for four servings.
For the Pork:
- 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:
- 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons. balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
- 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoons. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Pork:
Heat the oven to 425°F. Turn the exhaust fan on to high. Pat the pork chops with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each total). Heat a 12-inch heavy-based ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirl it around the pan, and then evenly space the pork chops in the pan. Cook without touching for 2 minutes.
Using tongs, lift a corner of the pork, check that it’s both well browned and easily releases from the pan, and flip it over. (If it sticks or isn’t well browned, cook for 1 to 2 more min. before flipping.) Cook the second side for 1 minute and then transfer the skillet to the oven.
Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F and is just firm to the touch, about 5 to 8 minutes. Using potholders, carefully remove the pan from the oven, transfer the pork to a large plate, tent with foil, and let it rest while you prepare the sauce in the same skillet.
For the Balsamic-Fig Sauce:
Pour off any excess fat from the skillet. Return the pan to high heat and add the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Cook, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits, until the broth is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 min. Stir in the figs, honey, and thyme and cook until the sauce is reduced by another 1 to 2 tablespoons, about 1 min. Add the butter and swirl it into the sauce until it’s completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops.
Olive Oil-Braised Vegetables
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
- 6 sprigs rosemary
- 1 lemon, ends trimmed, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
- 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold or new potatoes
- 1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
- 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets, stalk cut into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 sprigs marjoram, stems removed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the olive oil, anchovy paste, chili flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary , and lemon slices in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Place over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally , until fragrant and the garlic and the lemon slices are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pot and stir once or twice to coat in oil. Cook, covered, without stirring, until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 30 minutes.
Stir vegetables gently, replace the lid, and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender, about 30 minutes more.
Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in parsley and marjoram. Drain vegetables and place in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Choosing the Best Cooking Oils (belmarrahealth.com)
- Clean Eating 101: Oils (takebackfitness.com)
- Definition: Grapeseed Oil (bellasugar.com)
- Grapeseed Oil (healingfoodculture.wordpress.com)
- Some oily (and other) tips and great latkas for Chanukah (nourishingisrael.wordpress.com)
- Some Common Misconceptions: The Coconut. (livelargespendsmall.wordpress.com)
- Coconut Oil – Myth and Reality (spoonfeast.com)
The Veneto is a large, beautiful region in northeastern Italy. It reaches northwards into the Dolomite Mountains, where you will find some of Italy’s most exclusive tourist and ski resorts, and westward to Lake Garda with its olive trees and its majestic views. Following along the course of the Brenta River, you will come to Palladio’s splendid villas. Picturesque towns seem to sprout up from the gently rolling hills. Vineyards feed off the water of the Adige river which passes through Verona on its way south to the Venetian lagoon.
For nearly 1400 years, the two or three miles of shallow water separating Venice from the mainland of Italy, had not only protected Venice from invaders but effectively isolated the Venetians from Italian politics.
Untouched by imperialist warfare, feudalism and territorial squabbles; Venetians fixed their attention on the East and the rich markets of Levantine and Constantinople to become a great mercantile empire called the Venetian Republic.
A city built out of fear of invasion, was soon to be known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. While the Florentines were regarded as great thinkers, the Venetians would be regarded as great doer’s, since they alone conquered Veneto’s malaria-ridden swamps to build a great city, Venice, from nothing.
The diverse landscape of the Veneto is reflected in the region’s varied cuisine, influenced in large part by the region’s history, cultural open-mindedness and the presence of the sea. Grains, like corn and rice, are grown in the flatlands. Rice is a popular crop around Verona, where you will find the only Italian I.G.P rice variety, Vialone Nano Veronese. (D.O.P. means Protected Denomination of Origin. Products that are assigned the D.O.P denomination must be produced exclusively in very limited and strictly defined areas. These rice products may come from wider areas than D.O.P labeled products, but are certified I.G.P., that the typical characteristics of each product are within the approved standards for the whole area.)
These two grains, rice and corn, are the main ingredients of the region’s first courses, which include many types of risotto and polenta. Rice is a particularly versatile ingredient, and here you will find risotto made with everything from chicken giblets or eel, to fresh peas or radicchio from Treviso or asparagus from Bassano.
As you head north towards the mountains, polenta becomes the grain of choice. Polenta is often served with baccalà, a dried salted cod, calf’s liver and onions or braised beef or horsemeat.
Along the Adriatic coast, fish soups or brodetti, are traditionally served as first courses. Chioggia, a picturesque costal town located just south of Venice, is particularly famous for its fish soup and its massive fish market.
The mountainous areas of the Veneto are known for their excellent cheeses, the most famous of which is Asiago (DOP). The regional salumi (meats/salami) are also well known, including Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (DOP) and Soppressa Vicentina. ( Soppressa, unlike salami, which is made from good cuts of pork, sopressa is made with just about everything: the hams, shoulders, sides, and so on. About the only thing that doesn’t go into it, is the skin.)
When it comes to dessert, the Veneto is home to one of Italy’s most well known sweet breads, the Pandoro. This rich bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipes. In Venice, be sure to look for Scalete, Pandolo, and Baicoli, all traditional sweets favored by Venetians.
For a seafood lover, there is perhaps no better place in the world to visit than Venice, Italy. The cuisine of this historic city relies heavily on the abundant bounty of the Venetian Lagoon, and the vast array of sea creatures which inhabit it. Every morning, the Rialto Market of Venice is overflowing with exotic catches of the day, from tiny snails called bovoleti to razor clams (cape longhe) and gigantic swordfish. Besides the lagoon, some fresh seafood is obtained from fish farms, or from the mountain streams of the Alto Adige. Wherever the source, the fish of this region is of amazing quality and variety.
While in Venice one can sample some of the seafood delicacies of the region found nowhere else in the world. Simply sticking to old Italian staples, such as cheese pizza or spaghetti with meatballs, would be an unfortunate choice, when presented with Venice’s unique dining options. The following list represents some of the most popular seafood dishes found in Venice, today. Preparation of these dishes is generally simple, relying on the quality of the ingredients and basic cooking techniques.
Pesce Fritto Misto (Fried Mixed Fish) Typically these mixed-fries will include seafood choices, such as calamari, scallops, small shrimp, some large prawns or a small-sized whole fish. This hearty meal is usually served with Polenta and lemon wedges and, perhaps, no more than a sprinkling of salt and parsley for seasoning.
Seppia al Nero (Squid in its Own Ink) Seppia, or cuttlefish, is a squid-like fish which sprays black ink when threatened. The meat of the seppia is sweet and tender when grilled, and is often served in Venetian restaurants over a bed of linguine or risotto, colored black by its ink. The ink gives the pasta or rice a rich, briny flavor.
Sarde in Saor (Marinated Sardines) This classic dish is one of the most popular Venetian first courses. Sardines are fried and placed in a sweet-and-sour marinade of vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts. If one’s only experience with sardines are those of the canned variety, then trying this specialty of the Venice region is a must.
Pizza con Pesce (Seafood Pizza) Seafood pizza in Venice is unlike pizza served anywhere else in the world. It is prepared with a topping of calamari and mixed shellfish such as shrimp, clams and mussels – often still in their shells. The shells open as the pizza bakes in the oven, releasing their juices onto the very thin crust with a tomato sauce base. Of course, there is absolutely no cheese served on such a pizza, as in true Italian cooking, cheese and seafood are considered highly incompatible.
Branzino Me Alati (Salt-Crusted Mediterranean Sea Bass) A classic Venetian way to prepare a whole branzino (sea bass) is to bake it in a thick salt crust. The salt forms a hard shell around the fish while it cooks, and the scales are left on the fish while cooking to prevent the salt from penetrating the flesh. The crust must then be carefully cracked and peeled away before filleting the fish. The resulting flavor is sweet and tender and usually served with risotto or pasta.
Folpetti Consi (Boiled Baby Octopus) Tiny young octopus are boiled with carrots and celery until tender, then seasoned lightly with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Rombo, also known as Turbot, is a uniquely Mediterranean fish, not unlike the flounder. It is a flat fish that is quite popular in Venetian restaurants for its delicate flavor. It can be prepared in a number of different ways, but it is usually baked in a light tomato sauce.
Recipes For You To Make At Home
Venetian Rice and Peas – Risi e Bisi
Risi e bisi (rice and peas) is a classic Venetian dish. In the past it was prepared only on the feast days decreed by the Doge (Venice’s ruler), and though one can now prepare risi e bisi at any time, the dish really shines when freshly harvested baby peas are available. However, quality frozen peas can work very well, if fresh peas are not available. Venetians use a risotto rice called Vialone Nano, but Arborio rice will be fine if the Venetian rice is not available in your area.
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons butter (or Smart Balance Butter Blend), divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 1/4 cup diced pancetta (about 2 oz.) or prosciutto
- 2 cups arborio rice or vialone nano rice (about 14 oz.)
- 4 cups shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Cover and keep warm. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft (do not brown), about 5 minutes. Add pancetta and cook until light brown, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring until coated, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup stock. Stir constantly until stock is almost absorbed, about 1 minute. Continue adding stock by the cupful in 5 more additions, stirring constantly and allowing stock to be absorbed between additions, until rice is almost tender. Add peas and remaining cup of stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is creamy and tender but still firm to the bite, about 22 minutes total.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, Parmesan, and parsley. Season rice and peas with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowls or plates, and serve.
Mediterranean Flounder or Sea Bass Fillets
- 6 flounder or sea bass fillets (about 6 ounces each)
- 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 small jar capers, rinsed
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon slices for garnish
1. To cook fillets: Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
2. In a separate dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Flour the fillets and place in the sauté pan. Cook until golden brown on each side. Remove to a serving platter.
3. Keep the drippings in the sauté pan and add the parsley, capers and wine. Cook over a low flame for 3 minutes.
4. Spoon the sauce over the fillets and serve immediately.
Pork Stewed in Milk – Mas-cio al Late
Pork Stewed in Milk is one of the most popular second course entrees in the restaurants of the Venice, and, as a result, there are many variations. Some use white wine vinegar rather than white wine, others omit the garlic, and others use pork loin rather than pork rump.
- 2 1/2 pounds pork rump
- 3 pints whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance
- White wine vinegar
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A little unbleached flour
Tie the meat with butcher’s twine to give it as regular a shape as possible, and put it in a pot that’s just large enough to hold it. Add good, but not too strong or acidic white wine vinegar to cover, cover the pot with a cloth, and set it in the refrigerator for 48 hours, turning the meat four times each day and adding more vinegar if need be to keep it covered.
When the time is up, remove the meat from the vinegar and dry it well. Flour it and brown it in the butter, turning it so as to brown all sides. In the meantime, heat the milk, and, while the meat is browning, tie together the sage leaves and rosemary. Add the herbs to the pot, and season the meat with salt and pepper; next, slowly pour the milk over it. Let it come back to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the pot, and cook for two hours, turning the meat every now and again, but being careful not to puncture it.
Half way through the cooking, add a large clove of peeled, crushed garlic. By the time the meat is done the milk will have condensed into a creamy sauce.
Slice the meat fairly thickly, arrange the slices on a heated serving dish, spoon the sauce over them.
Potato Gnocchi with Salsa Nera
If calamari and black squid ink are not your thing, I would use small shrimp or bay scallops for the calamari and 1 tablespoon basil pesto for the squid ink.
- 6 pounds potatoes
- 2 cups flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
For salsa nera:
- 4 ounces tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 pound calamari, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 tablespoon fresh, black squid ink
- Salt and pepper to taste
To make gnocchi: Scrub the potatoes and place, unpeeled, in a large pot of boiling water (lightly salted).
Cook for 45 minutes until tender but not overcooked. When cool, peel potatoes and mash. Add flour, eggs, salt and pepper.
Roll dough into long thin rods, and cut into small pieces about 1-inch in length to form the dumplings.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop gnocchi in and cook for approximately 1 minute until they float to the top. Scoop out with a mesh strainer.
To make Salsa Nera: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add parsley, tomato paste, white wine, black squid ink (or pesto), salt and pepper; cook for 20 minutes then add the calamari ( or shrimp or scallops) and cook for 3 minutes more.
To assemble: Place cooked gnocchi on a large serving platter. Add the salsa nera and gently toss to cover gnocchi with sauce.
Crespelle with Berries and Cognac
- 2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
- 1/4 cup sugar or 2 tablespoons Truvia for Baking
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups low fat milk
- 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
- 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cooking spray to coat crêpe pan, as needed
For berry sauce:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or Smart Balance)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar or 1/4 cup Truvia for Baking
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 cups mixed berries
- 1/2 cup cognac
1. To make crepes: In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs, butter and vanilla extract. Whisk batter well to remove any lumps, and then let the batter rest for at least 1 hour to ensure tender crêpes.
2. In a small, flat, round crêpe pan, heat the pan over medium heat and grease lightly with butter to prevent sticking.
3. With a ladle or small measuring cup, quickly pour a small amount of batter into the pan. Immediately tilt and swirl the pan to spread the batter in a thin, even layer that just covers the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes, and then check the doneness of a crepe by carefully lifting one edge and looking underneath it for a golden color with specks of light brown. With a spatula, loosen the edge of the crêpe from the pan, flip it over, and cook on the other side until golden, about 30 seconds. Set aside crepes on individual dessert plates.
4. To make berry sauce: Melt butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add sugar and cook until it begins to caramelize. Add orange juice and reduce by half. Add berries and heat through.
5. To assemble: Once berries are hot, add the cognac, and ignite. Spoon over crepes and serve immediately.
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