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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Grains

Breakfast breads are comforting but they can be unhealthy. Keep them healthy by adding whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. A Healthy Doughnut? Healthy doughnuts do exist. These baked ones are the way to go to reduce the fat and calories. Don’t be put off by the fact that some of the treats are made with whole wheat flour. It adds great flavor, not density. Try baking with different grains and you will be rewarded with some great tasting breads.

Apple Flavored Baked Doughnuts With Maple Glaze

Makes 10

Doughnuts

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugars, applesauce, apple butter, orange juice, vanilla, apple pie spice, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill 10 of the wells of the doughnut pans to the rim; using a scant 1/3 cup of batter in each well.

If you have a little dough left add a little to each of the doughnuts.

Bake the doughnuts for 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

After about 5 minutes, remove the donuts from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze:

Mix together all of the glaze ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Place waxed paper under the racks holding the donuts.

Spread the doughnuts with glaze (or dip tops in the glaze); return to the rack until the glaze is set.

Pecan Banana Bread

Make 1 loaf. the recipe can be doubled to make 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 medium-size very ripe bananas, mashed (2 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions

Place the pecans in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Combine brown sugar, melted butter, bananas and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the pecans.

Pour mixture into a 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool on wire rack 2 hours or until completely cool.

Serve with cream cheese, if desired.

Barley Bread

Barley flakes are similar to oats and one of the oldest whole grains. Although barley may not be as popular as other whole grains like oats, wheat, or even the current favorite, quinoa, that makes it one of the best whole grain choices. The technique used below for helping the bread retain its shape during rising, works very well. Serve with homemade jam for breakfast or use it to make a sandwich, especially turkey.

Makes 1 boule

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
½ cup barley flakes
2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 package)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 – 2¼ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, plus extra for the top of the bread
1/2 cup barley flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Olive oil for the dough

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, soak the barley flakes in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes.

Put the olive oil, honey and baking soda into the bowl with the buttermilk and barley flakes ; stir well to combine.

Stir in 2 cups of bread flour, the yeast, salt, barley flour, wheat gluten, all-purpose flour and wheat germ.

With the paddle attachment mix the ingredients until they come together around the paddle. If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for five minutes, then let it rest for ten minutes.

Knead for another 5 minutes, or until the dough is supple and elastic. Drizzle the dough with a teaspoon of olive oil, roll the dough over to coat it entirely with oil.

Cover with a damp tea towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about an hour and a half.

Shape the dough into a flat ball to create a “boule”.

To keep it from spreading out as it rises, set the ball inside a 9 inch springform pan, on a piece of parchment, for the second rise.

Brush the shaped dough with some more olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is hot and the dough has completed its second rise, brush the dough with a bit more olive oil.

Remove the springform ring and slide a baking sheet under the parchment.

Slash the top of the loaf in diagonal cuts that are about ¼ inch deep and sprinkle the top with a little wheat germ.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and registers 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow the loaf to sit for at least an hour before slicing.

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Saltimbocca is an Italian word for jumps in the mouth. It is an Italian dish made of veal lined or topped with prosciutto and sage; marinated in wine, oil or saltwater depending on the region or one’s own taste. The original version of this dish is Saltimbocca alla Romana (saltimbocca Roman-style) which consists of veal, prosciutto and sage, rolled-up and cooked in dry white wine and butter. Marsala is sometimes used. Also, sometimes the veal and prosciutto are not rolled-up but left flat. An American twist replaces the veal with chicken and that is the version I use. Be sure to use good quality prosciutto, preferably Prosciutto di Parma, for the best taste.

Chicken Saltimbocca

6 servings

Ingredients

6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
12 large fresh sage leaves
6 thin prosciutto slices (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface.

Using a mallet, pound the chicken to a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

Place 2 sage leaves on top of each chicken breast half.

Top each chicken breast with a prosciutto slice, pressing to adhere. Spread 1/2 cup flour on plate.

Dredge chicken in flour to lightly coat both sides.

Preheat the oven to a low heat setting (around 200 degrees F.)

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add 3 chicken breasts, prosciutto side down; cook 4 minutes.

Turn chicken over and cook just until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the foil lined pan and place in the oven.

Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken breasts. Place in the oven.

Whisk the wine and remaining 4 teaspoons of flour in small bowl. Pour into the same skillet that the chicken was cooked in and bring to boil.

Add the lemon juice; whisk until the sauce thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve with the polenta.

Quick Cooking Polenta

6 servings

Ingredients

4 cups chicken stock
1 cup quick cooking polenta
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place the broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the polenta, whisking to prevent clumping.

Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed and the polenta is creamy and thoroughly cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

Add cheese, butter and salt, stirring gently until incorporated. Serve immediately.

Skillet Green Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, washed and cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed flat with side of a knife
A little salt
1/4 cup water
Salt & pepper

Directions

Heat the skillet on medium and add the oil.

Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or til lightly golden, stirring.

Add the beans, turn a few times to coat well with the oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Stir in the water. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Cover and cook 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Uncover and increase the heat to high.

Cook 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are cooked but still bright green.

Taste and adjust the salt as needed. Transfer to a serving dish.

 


July’s dinner recipes take full advantage of all the wonderful, seasonal produce available at this time of year. Where I live, this month is just about the end of the local growing season, too hot, while many of you are just reaping the benefits of gardens begun just a few months ago. And, for me, it is also too hot to grill. What you say! Since I am fortunate to be able to grill 12 months a year, the thrill is not seasonal. Some days I do not want to deal with the heat and the hot grill. So. many of my meals on these very hot days are prepared in an air-conditioned house.

Dinner One

Garden Fresh Meatloaf

Serve with a green bean salad and fried Italian peppers, recipes below.

Ingredients

2 lbs. grass-fed, organic, lean ground beef
2 carrots, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
Half of a large green bell pepper, finely diced
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Half pint grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup ketchup
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup water

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add all the diced vegetables and garlic to the skillet and cook until tender.

Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beef in a mixing bowl. Add the cooked vegetables, beaten eggs, ketchup, water and bread crumbs.

Combine thoroughly and place in a greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, about 60-75 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes and then unmold, slice and serve.

Green Bean Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

To make the vinaigrette:

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a serving bowl; set aside.

For the green beans:

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add the beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and toss with the vinaigrette, oregano, feta and onion.

Chill before serving.

Italian Fried Peppers

Ingredients

10-12 long Italian frying peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, sliced thin
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions

Wash and dry the peppers.

Heat a large saute pan over medium to high heat and add just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds

Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn the peppers over a few times to coat in oil.

Add the fennel and oregano and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Can be served at room temperature.

Dinner Two

Shrimp Tacos For Two

Serve this entrée with a cucumber salad. Recipe below.

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small clove garlic grated
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
4 corn tortillas
Homemade Tomato Salsa, recipe link
Shredded Garden Leaf lettuce
Shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese

Directions

Combine olive oil, lime juice, cumin, paprika, garlic and red pepper in a zip-top plastic bag, add the shrimp and seal. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Remove shrimp from the bag; discard marinade. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Arrange the shrimp on the pan and grill 2 minutes on each side.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat 4 corn tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and place them in a metal taco holder.

Place the holder in the oven and heat the tortillas until just beginning to get crispy, about 10 minutes.

Remove the holder from the oven and fill each shell with shrimp, tomato salsa, cheese and shredded lettuce.

Cucumber Salad with Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, sliced into 1/4″-thick half-moons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small sweet onion sliced into thin rounds and halved
¼ cup ranch dressing (recipe link here)

Chopped fresh dill, optional for garnish

Directions

Place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Alternate the cucumber and onion slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with the ranch dressing, garnish with dill, if using, and serve.

Dinner Three

Mediterranean Chicken

This is a great one pot meal. If you do not have access to fresh cherry peppers, you can use the jarred version instead.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered
All-Purpose flour, Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 chicken thighs, skin removed
½ cup dry white wine
A dozen fresh sweet red cherry peppers, halved and seeded
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, optional

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove the potatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the chicken with a 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.

Cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Return the potatoes to the skillet.

Add the wine, artichoke hearts, red chile flakes, if using, and cherry peppers.

Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Stir in the oregano and serve.

Dinner Four

Grilled Greek Salmon

Serve with a Tabbouleh Salad (click here for recipe link), Tzatziki Sauce and Pita Bread or Chips.

Sumac is a middle eastern spice that’s tangy and a little tart. If you don’t have it, use more lemon zest instead.

4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs fresh salmon fillets, cut into 4 equal pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, dill, dried oregano, crushed red pepper and sumac in a plastic ziplock bag.

Place the salmon fillets in the bag and close the bag.

Gently massage the marinade into the fish to coat it evenly, refrigerate and allow the fish to marinade for about 30 minutes.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium high.

Place the fish on a foil lined baking sheet skin-side down, turn the foil edges up and pour the marinade over the fish.

Slide the foil onto the grill, close the lid and cook the salmon for about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the foil from the grill by sliding the foil back on the baking sheet.

You can also cook the salmon in the oven.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Spoon some Tzatziki Sauce over the top and serve with Tabbouleh Salad and pita chips or bread.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

This sauce is delicious on top of grilled salmon.

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl.

Grate the cucumber on a box grater onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Add it to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients and stir.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.

 


This is the perfect time of year to go creative with your salad making recipes.  So many fresh ingredients are available in summer that you will not get bored with the variety of salads to you can make. Below are a few I have made and you might like to give them a try.

Shrimp Cobb Salad

Mini corn muffins (see recipe) go well with this salad.

For 2 servings

For the shrimp
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the ranch dressing
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon dried dill

For the salad
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded carrots
8 grape tomatoes, halved
Half a cucumber, peeled and diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, sliced
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (or any other cheese)

Directions

To prepare the shrimp:

Early in the day.

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place them in a skillet with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together.

Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, just until pink. Refrigerate until time to make the salad.

To prepare the dressing:

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste.

Refrigerate until serving time.

To assemble the salad:

Arrange the lettuce in the bottom of two salad plates. In rows across the lettuce arrange the shrimp, carrots, tomatoes, egg and cucumber.

Crumble the blue cheese and bacon over the salad ingredients. Serve with the dressing.

Mini Corn Muffins

Makes 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (coarse or regular)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 scallion, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 24 mini muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper liners.

Sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Combine the buttermilk, egg and oil in a big measuring cup. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full.

Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serve with fresh tomato salsa and homemade tortilla chips, recipes below.

Ingredients

8 ears corn, kernels stripped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Half of a large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 grape tomatoes, halved, optional garnish

Directions

In a serving bowl, place chopped celery, onion and peppers. Add the corn, salt, cumin and chili powder. Mix well. Stir in the mayonnaise.

Arrange the cut tomatoes around the top of the salad to garnish, if desired. Chill the salad until serving time.

Fresh Homemade Salsa

About 3 cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
2 medium chile peppers, such as poblano, New Mexico or Anaheim, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder or chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions

Be very careful while handling chile peppers. You can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands if you use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours.

You can make the salsa in one of two ways: finely chop the ingredients by hand or use a processor. I prefer to finely chop all the ingredients because I like a chunky, more rustic salsa that is easy to scoop on tortilla chips.

For the processor method:

Roughly chop the tomatoes, chilies and onions.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times-just enough to finely dice the ingredients but not enough to purée them.

Place the mixture in a serving bowl. Taste the salsa. If the chilies made the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. Adjust for salt.

Let sit for an hour at room temperature for the flavors to combine. Serve with homemade tortilla chips.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Olive oil

One package (8-10) large (12 inch) flour tortilla

Taco seasoning mix, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two rimmed baking sheets.

Brush the tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle each evenly with taco seasoning.

Cut the tortillas into 6-8 triangles and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, mix all together. Store in an airtight container.

Tabbouleh

Serve with pita chips and hummus.

Ingredients

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup (about 1 pound) chopped very ripe tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kalamata olives and Feta cheese for garnish
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving
Warm Pita bread or Pita chips, for serving

Directions

Rinse the bulgur in a fine-mesh sieve under cool running water until the water runs clear, then transfer the bulgur to a bowl.

In a heatproof bowl, mix the bulgur with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup boiling water.

Cover, and let stand until tender but slightly chewy, about 30 minutes.

Drain the bulgur to remove any liquid not absorbed.

In a large bowl, combine the scallions, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, mint, remaining salt, pepper and cumin.

Add the soaked bulgur to the bowl and gently toss.

Add the olive oil and the lemon juice and lightly toss, adding more seasoning if necessary.

Set the tabbouleh aside for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Cover and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish the salad with kalamata olives and feta cheese. Serve with romaine lettuce leaves and pita bread.

Baked Pita Chips

If you do not have access to Za’atar seasoning, you can make your own. See recipe below.

2 packages of whole wheat pita breads
Olive oil
Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each pita on both sides with olive oil.

Cut each in quarters and place on baking sheets. Sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning,

Bake until crispy and brown about 15 minutes.

Homemade Za’atar Seasoning

Makes 1/4 cup

Combine 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight jar.


The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and in the countries of Portugal, Spain and France. This series continues with the country of Italy.

The Mediterranean Diet is more than just a way of eating. It is a way of thinking about food. It embraces the concept of eating together and sharing food with others. Modern populations are pressed for time, so food is often prepared and consumed in a hurry and in isolation. However, for the Mediterranean peoples, preparing food and eating together is very important and it is an important key in why the Mediterranean Diet is successful. For Italians, food is not simply sustenance and nutrition. It is community.

The Italian cuisine is typically Mediterranean which means eating a lot of vegetables, fruit, grains, fish and some chicken. In addition, the Italians use olive oil for cooking in large amounts instead of animal fat. Olive oil combined with a high volume of vegetables prevents disease. The Italians also follow nature and only eat what is in season. If you eat according to the seasons, you will be eating a variation of different colored vegetables. Each different color has a different antioxidant, which helps prevent disease, including cancer.

There are big differences between the Italian food in the North and in the South. Italy’s Alpine and sub-alpine regions in the North produce more livestock (cows) and fewer olives. That means more butter and lard and less olive oil. Corn (maize) and rice (such as arborio) are more popular in the northern regions than pasta. In the inland cities (Milan, Turin, Bologna), fish is more expensive than it is in the coastal cities (Genoa, Venice), and therefore consumed in lesser quantities. Fish and fresh fruit cost much less in Naples and Palermo than they do in Turin and Milan.

Southern Italians eat 40% more fruit and 80% more grains than Northern Europeans do. Southern Italians eat approximately 490 grams (17 ounces) of pasta and bread a day and research studies have found that eating a lot of grains was clearly NOT harmful to the Italians. The next largest proportion of their fiber comes from tomatoes, onions, artichokes eggplants, peas, lentils and chickpeas.

The Typical Italian Daily Menu:

Breakfast: Yogurt topped with berries and walnuts, coffee or tea
Lunch: Lentil soup with Swiss chard and bread on the side
Snack: cheese, bread
Dinner: Roasted cod paired with a wheat berry salad (cooked wheat berries with olive oil vinaigrette, feta, parsley, and tomatoes) and a glass of red wine
Dessert: Fresh fruit drizzled with honey

The Typical Italian Diet:

Snacks: In Italy, snacks are usually a very light: an espresso, a pizzetta, cheese and fresh fruit are popular options.

Lunch: In Italy lunch is usually a single dish, either pasta, frittata, fish with vegetables or salad.

Dinner: A soup with fish and vegetables is typical for a first course, followed by pasta with meat or fish and salad or vegetables. Fruit is usual for dessert.

Bring the Italian Mediterranean to your table with these recipes:

Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad

TN&M Magazine

Ingredients

  • 10 oz Orzo pasta
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
  • One 8 oz can Italian chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, under oil, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil.

In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of saffron and 2 tablespoons of the hot chicken stock and stir to dissolve.

Add the saffron to the chicken stock and stir.

Add the orzo to the boiling chicken stock and let it cook for 7 minutes.

Drain the orzo, transfer to a bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.

Dice red bell pepper, red onion and mozzarella; set aside.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into 1/2-inch piece and set aside.

Slice the olives and drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.

In a medium bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Add the diced onion to the vinaigrette and let it marinate for 5 minutes.

Transfer all of the ingredients into the orzo and mix well, add the vinaigrette and toss well to coat.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley just before serving.

Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use.

Warm Farro Salad

From TN&M Magazine

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dried chickpeas
  • 10 ounces farro
  • Truffle oil to taste
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • 1 Tomato chopped fine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili flakes
  • Parsley

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 hours, changing the water 3 times. (If you use canned chickpeas, rinse them thoroughly!)

Cook the chickpeas in water to cover for about 1 hour.

Cook the farro in lightly salted water until tender.

Finely chop the garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, chili flakes and oregano.

Lightly sauté the herbs in olive oil, then add the tomato.

Add the drained chickpeas and farro, drizzling with a bit of broth.

Off the flame, stir in truffle oil to taste.

Courgettes with Sultanas and Pine Nuts

From TN&M Magazine

Serves one, as a main course.

Ingredients

  • 1 210g tin of sardines, drained, oil reserved
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas (raisins)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1.5 courgettes (zucchini), julienned
  • ½ tablespoon chopped chives
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • Black pepper to serve

Direction

Tip a little of the oil drained from the sardines into a frying pan and sauté the garlic for a few minutes until softened.

Add the julienned courgettes to another pan, and sauté over low heat in a little of the sardine oil until softened – approximately 4 minutes.

Add the sardines to the garlic pan, and break them up with the back of your wooden spoon as you stir them around the pan. Next add the sultanas, pine nuts and capers and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until the sardines are warmed through.

When the courgettes are ready add them to the saucepan and toss all the ingredients together, distributing the sauce evenly through the courgettes. Scatter in the chives, lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a little extra salt if necessary, but likely not as the capers are salty.

Transfer to a serving dish and add liberal amounts of black pepper.

White Fish Fillets With Cherry Tomatoes

By Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Four 6-ounce white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil

Directions

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Combine the shallot, garlic, tomatoes, olives and oil in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside.

Place the fish in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the tomato mixture over the fish and broil until fish is opaque throughout and tomatoes have started to burst, 10–13 minutes. Serve with basil scattered over top.

Spaghetti With Clams

by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 pounds clams
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced, divided
  • 3 small dried chiles, crumbled, divided
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Place clams in a sink filled with cold water. Scrub shells well with a coarse brush to remove any sand. Drain water and soak clams in clean water, repeating until the water remains clean.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, and 1 chile. Add half of the clams, cover, and cook over high heat, shaking pan frequently, until clams open (keep lid on pot so heat is not released, making cooking time longer).

As soon as the clams open, transfer the clams and their juices to a large bowl (discard any clams that do not open). Repeat the process with 2 tablespoons oil, remaining ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, 1 chile, and remaining clams.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but al dente; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in pot with lid over medium heat. Add remaining 1 garlic clove and remaining 1 chile; stir until garlic is fragrant and light golden, 1–2 minutes. Return clams and their juices to the pot; toss to coat and remove from the heat.

Add pasta and toss to coat evenly with juices, adding pasta cooking liquid by ¼-cupfuls if pasta is dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over and serve.


I titled this post Summertime Cookies because the cookie recipes are quick and easy to make and they are filled with flavors that go well with summer ingredients. They are also perfect paired with ice cream desserts.

Basil Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

Directions

Using an electric mixer on low-speed, blend together the flour, basil, sugar and lemon zest and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, egg and vanilla. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients.

Beat with the mixer, gradually adding the lemon juice. The mixture will be crumbly and slightly moist. It should not be sticky, though.

Add the pistachios and mix well. Gather the mixture into a ball.

Roll the ball into a log about 1½ inches thick and 14 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Can also be overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the chilled log into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and reshape, if necessary, so they keep their round shape.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for 10 minutes more or until they are slightly brown.

Cool on a rack.

Crunchy Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Oatmeal Date Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ, preferably toasted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce and oil until completely blended.

Whisk in sugar, egg and vanilla; set aside.

In a second medium bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and flour.

Add to the applesauce mixture and stir well to combine thoroughly. Fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and bake until cooked through and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Carefully transfer to wire racks and set aside to let cool completely.


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It is a gray and rainy day here – just perfect for a soup dinner. I also know I have a turkey carcass in the freezer that was leftover from the holidays and it is time to put it to good use.
I also save small amounts of leftover vegetables in the freezer in little ziplock bags. These little bags are perfect for adding to soup recipes and they don’t require additional cooking.

farro

Of course, almost any ingredient that you like can go into a soup pot, but I usually try to vary them, so that it doesn’t seem like the same old soup. In this soup recipe, I used farro instead of rice or pasta. Farro is hulled wheat that has been used in the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice in Italian recipes.

Hearty Italian Turkey Soup

img_0007

For the stock

1 roasted turkey carcass, broken in pieces, plus any additional bones
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 celery stalk tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Water

Directions

Place the turkey carcass in a very large soup pot. Add the other ingredients and add enough water to just cover the turkey bones.

img_0005

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubbling simmer, partially cover the pot and let the stock cook for two hours.

Remove the pot from the heat. With tongs take the turkey bones out of the stock and place them in a wide bowl to cool. Strain the stock in a colander covered with cheesecloth.

img_0006

This recipe makes about 12 cups of stock. I also had about 2 cups of meat from the bones that I chopped and set aside.

img_0008

For the soup

12 cups turkey stock
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cups canned
3 large carrots, diced
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup pearl onions (frozen are great-no peeling)
1 cup cooked, diced asparagus
2 cups cooked, diced green beans
2 cups cooked baby lima beans
2 cups cooked peas
2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat

Directions

Rinse the soup pot out and pour the strained stock into the pot. Add the water, salt, carrots, tomatoes and farro.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until the farro is tender. Taste one of the grains to be sure.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt, if needed.

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