Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: polenta

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.

 


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This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

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Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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Asti is a province in the Piedmont region of northern Italy and is an important area for the production of fine wines. Perhaps the wine most famously associated with Asti worldwide is the sparkling Asti (DOCG). The name is usually shortened to “Asti” in order to avoid associations with the many wines of dubious quality, which are labelled “Spumante”.

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Asti is typically sweet and low in alcohol (often below 8%) and is made solely from the moscato bianco, a white muscat grape. A premium version known as Moscato d’Asti (DOCG) is sold outside Italy. Moscato d’Asti is a “Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita”, a sparkling white wine produced mainly in the province of Asti, is considered a dessert wine. Grown on Asti hilltops, Moscato d’Asti is made by small producers in small batches. Moscato is so named because of its earthy musk aroma. The petite berry grape ripens early and produces a wide range of wine styles: light and dry, slightly sweet and honey-like.

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While technically a white grape, there are strains of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains vines that produce berries that are pink or reddish-brown. When the differing grape color is stable, the wines are typically classified as separate grape varieties: Muscat Rouge à Petit Grains for red skin color and Muscat Rose à Petit Grains for pink skin color.

While Asti province became famous around the world thanks to Martini and Rossi and Gancia and Riccadonnafor for their commercial Spumante wines, it is now becoming famous internationally for its classic red wines, such as Barbera d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Bonarda and Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. These wines and many other local wines can be sampled during the week-long Douja d’Or wine exhibition which is held at the same time as the Palio and Sagre races.

Asti is also famous for its Asti’s Festival of Festivals, held in September, a week before the Palio race. During the festival, most of the towns in Asti’s province meet in a great square called “Campo del Palio”. Here, they offer local cuisine for which they are known and on the Sunday of the Sagre race all the towns involved stage a parade with floats with everyone in costume all along the Asti roads.

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Asti province becomes a gourmet delight from October to December when the white truffle or “tartufo bianco” is in season. Some of the best truffles are found around Asti’s hills and every weekend there is a local truffle festival.

Among local vegetables, the cardo gobbo (artichoke)and the “square pepper” (bell pepper) of Asti stand out, and both are regarded as essential ingredients for bagna cauda (a garlic and anchovy dip).

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The area around Asti is also renowned for its cheeses, such as robiola of Roccaverano and robiola di Cocconato.

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Typical provincial dishes include agnolotti, potato gnocchi, ciotola di trifulau (cheese fondue with polenta and a sprinkling of truffles) and boiled meats.

Local desserts include amaretti (almond cookies), canestrelli (semolina biscuits), finocchini of Refrancore (fennel cookies) and hazelnut cakes.

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Pearl Barley Soup with Moscato d’Asti

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz. smoked cooked ham, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
2 small carrots, finely chopped
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1 medium leek, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
1⁄2 small celery root, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Moscato d’Asti, for serving
Finely chopped chives, to garnish

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, onions, leek, parsnip and celery root and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is half-cooked, about 35 minutes.

Add the potatoes to the soup and cook until tender, about 25 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the cream and ladle the soup into serving bowls. Add a splash of moscato to each bowl and sprinkle with chives before serving.

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Braised Leg of Lamb with Polenta

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Lamb Stock

12 oz. lamb bones
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves

For the Braise and Polenta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (4-lb.) bone-in leg of lamb
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch thyme
3 cups coarse-ground polenta
1 cup (4 oz.) grated robiola cheese
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Make the lamb stock:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the lamb bones on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bones to a large saucepan along with half each of the celery, carrots, and onion; the juniper berries; bay leaves and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until the bones have released their flavor, about 3 hours. Pour the lamb stock through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard the solids.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. In a roasting pan over two burners, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a platter and add the remaining celery, carrots and onion to the pan along with the rosemary and thyme. Cook the vegetables, stirring, until browned and soft, about 6 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the lamb stock and bring to a boil. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place the lamb in the oven. Braise the lamb until very tender, about 3 hours.

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour the polenta and the 2 tablespoons salt into the water and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring steadily, until the polenta is tender and smooth, about 1 hour. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Season with pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and pour the pan juices through a fine sieve into a bowl. Skim and discard the fat and pour the juices into a small saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil and cook until the sauce reduces to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Heat the broiler. Transfer the lamb to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a large dish and serve with the polenta and sauce.

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Potato and Scallion Fritters

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Ingredients

2 1⁄2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz.) rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large russet potato, peeled and boiled until tender
3/4 cup ricotta
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the rye and all-purpose flours with the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, the egg, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Knead on medium speed until the dough comes together and is smooth, about 6 minutes. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Halve the dough and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grate the cooked potato on the large holes of a box grater and reserve 1 cup; use any remaining potato for another recipe. Place the potato in a medium bowl, mix with the ricotta and scallions, and season with salt and pepper.

On a floured work surface, roll each dough disk into a 1⁄8-inch-thick circle. Drop 1-tablespoon-sized dollops of the ricotta-potato filling evenly spaced over 1 dough circle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the dough with water around each dollop of filling. Drape the second dough circle over the first and gently press the dough between the mounds of filling to adhere. Position a 3-inch-round fluted cutter over 1 mound of filling and stamp out the round. Repeat, stamping out all the rounds.

Pour enough oil into a 6-quart saucepan to come 2 inches up the side, attach a deep-fry thermometer, and heat to 350°F. Working in batches, add the rounds to the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fritters from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season the fritters with salt and serve while hot.

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Skillet Cake with Berry Compote

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Ingredients

1 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries or cranberries
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 oz.) “00” pasta flour
4 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons. unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Toasted, flaked almonds, to garnish
1 sprig mint, to garnish

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup lingonberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, the white wine, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium and cook, stirring, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender, scrape into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Stir in the remaining 1⁄2 cup lingonberries and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk, flour, egg yolks and vanilla seeds until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, pour in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and whisk until soft peaks form. Scrape the egg whites into the batter and fold until combined.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium and cook until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until set on the bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook until set, about 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a cutting board and tear into large pieces. Transfer the pieces to a serving plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle with almonds, garnish with the mint and serve warm with the lingonberry compote spooned over the top.

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slowcookercover

Using a slow cooker is a great way to save time and still prepare a nutritious meal. Assemble the meal in the morning, put it in the slow cooker and at the end of the day, dinner is ready — without much mess or many dishes to clean. The device requires only a small amount of electricity to do its work — compared with a standard oven — and a slow cooker uses a lot less energy, so it won’t heat up an entire kitchen the way an oven does.

Cooking with a slow cooker can also be an economically smart choice, because you can use cheaper cuts of meat. Condensation acts as a self-baster, so tougher cuts of meat become tender in a slow cooker. Just because you’re saving time and money doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing taste. Vegetables cooked in a slow cooker can absorb stocks and spices, giving them fuller flavors.

The high and low settings on the device allow you to adjust the temperature for the length of time you want the meal to cook. Today, slow cookers come in all shapes and sizes. There are manual cookers, programmable cookers with digital timers and small cookers designed solely for heating dips. Slow cookers can be either round or oval to accommodate different types of food and they can range in size from one to seven quarts.

It is common knowledge that a slow cooker is good for making soups and stews, but did you know you can make lasagna in a slow cooker?

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Mushroom Spinach Lasagna

LOW 5 hours 20 minutes

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 6 oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups tomato or marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 dried lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 1-½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Directions

Spray the inside of a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach; cook 3 minutes more or until the mushrooms are tender and the spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally.

Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and pepper in small bowl; set aside.

Spread 3/4 cup sauce mixture over the bottom of the slow cooker pan. Layer 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce mixture, breaking noodles to fit.

Top with 3/4 cup sauce mixture, ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Add 3/4 cup sauce mixture and the remaining 3 lasagna noodles, breaking to fit. Spoon remaining sauce mixture over the noodles.

Cover; cook on LOW 5 hours until the noodles are tender. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Pork Shoulder Sugo

Called sugo, bolognese or ragu, depending on the region — or gravy among some Italian Americans — Italy’s long-simmering meat sauces are legendary. There is a practical side to a ragu, as well, because they get better a day or two after cooking, so they are ideal for dinner parties. They also freeze well for instant pasta meals during the week. Reheat the sauce, cook the pasta and make a salad. You have dinner all set.

LOW 8 hours or HIGH 4 hours

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, peeled
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 to 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed of fat
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 28 oz container Italian crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 oil-packed anchovies

Directions

In large bowl, mix onions, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork shoulder 4 minutes on the fattest side, then turn and cook 3 minutes each on the other 3 sides. Transfer to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add onion mixture to the skillet with the pork juices; cook 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown. Add red wine; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in tomatoes; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Pour mixture over the pork in the slow cooker. Add chicken stock and anchovies; stir liquid.

Cook on Low heat setting 8 hours or High heat setting 4 hours.

Transfer pork to a cutting board; cool slightly. Cool liquid 10 minutes, then carefully puree in a blender in batches (or use an immersion blender), and return the mixture to the slow cooker.

Set the slow cooker to the Warm heat setting. Shred pork, discarding any pieces of fat. Add pork to the liquid in the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Leave on warm until you cook the pasta. Dress the pasta with some of the sauce.

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Tuscan Chicken and Beans

6 servings

HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil cured Italian olives
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 3 cups cooked orzo pasta
  • Lemon slices, for garnish

Directions

Coat the bowl of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place onion and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Season chicken on both sides with Italian seasoning, thyme and black pepper and arrange the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Drizzle lemon juice over the chicken and evenly spoon tomatoes and olives on top.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, stir in the beans and oregano.

Serve chicken and sauce over cooked orzo. Garnish with lemon slices.

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Italian Steak and Peppers

4 servings

HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless round steak, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Cubanelle peppers (Italian long peppers), seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 sweet (Vidalia/Walla Walla) onion, sliced
  • 8-10 oz white mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Purchased polenta that comes in a tube shape, sliced into rounds and grilled or broiled
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Coat bowl of slow cooker with cooking spray.

Season both sides of the steaks with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Place in the slow cooker. Scatter Cubanelle peppers, red pepper, onion and mushrooms over the top of the meat.

In a small bowl, combine broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Pour over peppers, onions and mushrooms.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours.

Place grilled polenta rounds on the dinner plates. Add the steaks and some of the peppers, onions, mushrooms and spoon some of the sauce over the top of each steak. Garnish with basil leaves.

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Italian Sausage and Farro Stuffed Peppers

4 servings

LOW for 4 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 large red, orange or yellow bell peppers (7 to 8 oz each)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage links, casings removed 
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • ¾ cup uncooked pearled farro
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut a 1/2 inch off the top stem end of each bell pepper. Remove the seeds and membranes; rinse the peppers. Remove the stems from the pepper tops and chop the pepper tops; set aside.

Combine the two cheeses and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet, cook sausage and crushed red pepper over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink; drain. Remove to large bowl; set aside.

In same skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic; cook and stir about 3 minutes. Add chopped bell pepper tops; cook 2 minutes. Add zucchini; cook and stir 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from the heat.

Add farro to the sausage in the bowl and mix to combine. Add onion mixture; mix well. Gently stir in 2 tablespoons of the basil, the oregano and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Divide this  mixture evenly among the peppers.

Pour 1/3 cup water into a 5- to 6-quart oval slow cooker. Place stuffed peppers upright in the slow cooker, leaning against each other and the slow cooker sides to prevent them from falling over.

Cover; cook on Low heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until the peppers and farro are tender. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the tops of the peppers.

Cover; let stand 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, remove the peppers to serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil.

'Whatever's the most durable. This is the fifth year it's been regifted.'


The Piazza Barberini menorah designed by Galia Raccah and engineer Daniel Raccah is an architectural marvel weighing 6,878 pounds and standing at 22.5 feet. (Photos: Francesca Di Majo, public relations office of Rome)

The Piazza Barberini menorah designed by Galia Raccah and engineer Daniel Raccah is an architectural marvel weighing 6,878 pounds and standing at 22.5 feet. (Photos: Francesca Di Majo, public relations office of Rome)

Hanukkah (also Chanukah) is the Jewish Festival of Lights. The word Hanukkah means rededication (hanu kan). Today, the celebration honors the hard-fought victory for freedom. It is an eight-day holiday. The first night usually includes a big family dinner and after dinner the family gathers to light the menorah candles. Blessings and songs are part of the ceremony.

Given its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has taken on holiday importance in the United States and in many other countries where Christmas has been commercialized. It is traditional to exchange gifts with friends and relatives on each night of Hanukkah. With over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas.

No festivities are complete without delicious treats and the Jewish communities celebrate with a fried feast. Fried Chicken, fried eggplant, latkes (potato pancakes) and sweet fried dough fritters are all part of an Italian Hanukkah meal.

Italian Hanukkah Specialties

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Melanzane alla Giudia (Jewish-Style Eggplant)

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds eggplant
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cut the eggplant into quarters lengthwise. Cut out the seeds and much of the flesh, leaving about ½-inch along the skin. Cut the eggplant into bite sized pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook the garlic for a few minutes until lightly browned.

Add the eggplant and stir to coat in oil. Cook, partially covered and stirring often, until tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve.

hanukkahcheese

Fried Cheese with Tomato Sauce

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a skillet. Add onion and saute over high heat until transparent, 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, add sugar and saute until tomatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cool. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Cheese

  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, finely diced
  • 6 eggs, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and divided in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or brandy
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 sprigs parsley, stems removed
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup flour
  • Oil for frying

Directions

Melt mozzarella in a double boiler set over, but not touching, simmering water. Pour the cheese into the large mixing bowl of an electric mixer and beat in 2 eggs.

Add 1/4 cup bread crumbs, oregano, one clove of the garlic and salt. Mix well.

Press cheese mixture into 8-inch square glass dish. Cover and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Lightly beat remaining 4 eggs in bowl. Blend in vermouth. Set aside.

In a processor or blender, process remaining bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and remaining garlic. Set aside.

Cut cheese mixture into 1 1/2-inch squares (about 15 pieces). Dip each into flour, then egg mixture and finally into bread crumb mixture to coat evenly.

Place on paper towels and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees F in heavy skillet or deep fryer. Fry cheese pieces, a few at a time, until evenly golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute.

Drain on paper towels. Serve at once with the tomato sauce.

hanukkahchicken

Fried Chicken Cutlets, Italian-Jewish Style

This is an adaptation of “Pollo Fritto per Chanuka”, a recipe from Edda Servi Machlin’s, The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, (Dodd, Mead & Co.)  This is a traditional Hanukkah dish in Italy.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges or tomato sauce for serving

Directions

Combine the salt, nutmeg, garlic salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle the chicken cutlets evenly on both sides with the mixture.

Place the cutlets in a shallow bowl or container. Mix the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small measuring cup and pour over the cutlets, lifting them to make sure that the liquid reaches all surfaces.

Cover and let the chicken marinate for an hour or place in the refrigerator for up to several hours. Move the cutlets around once in a while to insure evenness of seasoning.

Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large pan. Place the flour and beaten eggs in separate pie plates or shallow bowls.

Coat the cutlets in flour and then in the beaten egg.  Fry in the hot oil over moderately high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

Serve immediately or place in a preheated 400-degree F oven with the door slightly open (broiler-style) for up to 10 minutes, in order to keep warm and crisp. Serve with lemon wedges or tomato sauce.

hanukkahpolenta

Polenta Squares

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Marinated grape tomatoes, optional

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a boil. Add polenta slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until polenta comes away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While still hot, spread polenta about 1-inch thick onto an oiled baking pan. Cool, cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, several hours or overnight.

Cut polenta into 2 inch squares and transfer to a large platter.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a nonstick skillet and brown polenta, turning occasionally, until crispy on both sides, about 8 minutes.

Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining polenta, adding additional oil as needed. Serve immediately or reheat just before serving. Garnish with marinated grape tomatoes, if desired.

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Sweet Rice Frittelle

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup medium-grain rice
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying
  • Granulated sugar for garnish

Directions

Mix rice and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep the rice from sticking to the pan. As rice begins to cook, add 1 tablespoon sugar, salt and zest.

Cover the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid and is reduced to a soft pudding, 20 minutes. Stir in butter and set aside to cool.

When the rice mixture cools, add egg yolks one at a time, then the vanilla and then the flour, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition.

Heat oil in large saucepan to 360 to 375 degrees F.

Beat egg whites with dash of salt until soft peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over them and continue beating until stiff.

Gently fold beaten egg whites into the rice mixture. (May be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to fry.)

Working in batches, drop batter by tablespoons into the hot oil and fry, turning once, until frittelle are crisp and brown, about 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and roll in sugar while hot.


 

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The following are some of the favorite side dishes my family has come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting.

Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing

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Yields enough to fill a 12- to 14- pound turkey and a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Directions

  • 14 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 loaves)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb sweet Italian fennel sausage (casings removed)
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth, plus extra for the baking dish

Directions

Pile the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into 1-inch pieces, until light brown, about 5 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the cubed bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the turkey in a 325 degree F oven to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish or large baking pan, pour a cup or two of extra stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the turkey. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

Polenta-Stuffed Squash

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 acorn squash, each about one pound
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup fine to medium ground polenta or cornmeal
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half; discard the seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Rub the flesh and skin of each squash with 1 tablespoon oil. Scatter garlic inside.

Roast the squash in a baking pan until the flesh is tender but the sides are not yet collapsing, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Heat butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, the sage and thyme; cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta or cornmeal, then whisk in broth. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, whisking frequently, until the polenta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, scrape about 1 cup of flesh out of each squash, leaving a layer in the shell so it retains its shape. Mash the flesh into a coarse puree and add to the polenta along with the Fontina cheese; stir well. Spoon into the squash shells. Sprinkle the top of each with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the stuffed squash until the cheese is melted and the polenta is steaming hot, about 20 minutes. Serve garnished with additional sage, if desired.

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.

Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazed Cipollini Onions

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Cipollini means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture.  Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.


tuscancover

Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture, yet, simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made from Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced for the region’s many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate provides the ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

A soffritto can be considered the Italian version of a mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that are used to create a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto, as needed, to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in the Tuscan cuisine, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking but pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

Antipasto

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Italian Bread

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tuscan1

Marinated Olives and Mushrooms

Olives

  • 1 cup mixed Italian olives
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley basil, and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole cremini mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stalk (with some chopped fronds)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

To prepare olives:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To prepare mushrooms:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are just soft, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mushrooms will keep in refrigerator for 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

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Tuscan White Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cannellini beans
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Soak the beans in water to cover overnight.

Drain the beans and simmer in water to cover until tender (about 45-60 minutes).

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the warm beans.

Correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Main Course

Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy. There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • One 26-28 oz. container Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides. Put the roast on a plate and set aside.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve the sliced beef with the creamy polenta. An Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

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Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 3 cups beef broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Fall Fruit

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Amaretto Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.

Beat in the vanilla, amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.  With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.


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The lazy days of summer have disappeared. Those days have gone by so quickly and here we are back into the busy after school activities routine!  Soccer, tee ball, baseball, dance, gymnastics, violin…no matter what we or our children are involved in, the usual time for these activities seems to fall right in the middle of dinner time.

Dinner doesn’t have to be eaten between 5-6 p.m., though. An early dinner, right after school, can work better on busy nights. Instead of eating an after school snack, serve dinner.  Or make smoothies which are quick to drink and easy to digest and have dinner after the activity. Bottom line, eat when it makes sense and don’t be ruled by tradition.

Many recipes can be doubled and freeze well. Making dinner for one night with a spare to freeze will save you time not only because you won’t have to cook on a busy night, but you also won’t have many dishes to wash late in the evening.

Slow Cookers can not only be used for cooking but also for keeping foods warm, so when you walk in the door, dinner is ready.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for quick and healthy meals for busy evenings.

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Shrimp and Tomato Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh thin string beans, trimmed
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 4 oz. dried linguine

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel shrimp if they have shells and devein, leaving tails intact, if desired. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and green beans to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Pour shrimp mixture over the hot cooked pasta. Drizzle sauce over the shrimp and vegetables. Serve.

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Beef Sirloin Tips with Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds beef sirloin tip steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 12 ounce jar red and yellow sweet peppers and onions
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Quick cooking polenta or couscous

Directions

Trim meat and cut into 1- to 1-1/2-inch chunks; sprinkle with paprika.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Add the jar of peppers and onions with the liquid and the tomato sauce to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce is slightly thickened.

Return meat to the skillet; heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with quick cooking polenta or couscous or mashed potatoes.

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Greens, Cannellini Beans and Italian Sausage

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage links, cut lengthwise into long slices
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges (1/2 cup)
  • One 15 ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 cups chopped kale or your favorite greens
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

In a very large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and  cook and until browned. Add onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until the onions are tender.

Remove mixture from the skillet to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add beans, thyme and garlic to the skillet. Stir and heat through. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes.

Gradually add kale, stirring until wilted before adding more. Cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes or until all of the greens are slightly wilted and tender.

Add sausage mixture and vinegar to the skillet; heat through. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

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Crispy Fish Fillets with Apple-Celery Slaw

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 pound of your favorite fish fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Cut one lemon half into 4 wedges; set aside. Juice the remaining lemon half into a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise and honey and mix well. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside.

For the slaw:

Stir celery, apple and cabbage into the remaining mayonnaise mixture in the bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the fish.

For the fish:

Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and brush with the reserved 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise mixture. In a shallow dish combine cornmeal and chili powder; coat fish in the cornmeal mixture.

In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium heat. Cook fish in hot oil 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Serve fish with slaw and the lemon wedges.

quickfix5

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Simple Wine Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, (about 1 lb total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish; dip chicken in flour, turning and pressing to coat all sides of the chicken.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the skillet; swirl to lightly coat the skillet. Add chicken breasts, smooth sides down and cook about 5 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown.

Turn chicken over; cook for 4 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (165 degrees F). Transfer chicken to a warm serving platter; set aside.

For the sauce:

Add the shallots to the hot skillet; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add wine; cook about 1 minute stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of skillet.

Add chicken broth to the skillet; bring to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in chives. Return chicken to the skillet; heat through.

Serve the chicken and wine sauce with the veggies on the side.

For the veggies:

In a second skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove. Add about 2 cups of sliced seasonal vegetables (zucchini, peppers, asparagus, etc.). Saute just until barely tender and sprinkle with your favorite herb, salt and pepper to taste.


porkand1

Cotoletta Alla Milanese

Cotoletta is most likely an adaptation of the southern Italian word costoletta, meaning ribs or cutlet, or it may come from the French côtelette. Though the origin and the spelling of the name are uncertain, the dish itself is not. It is a portion of meat, usually veal, fried in breadcrumbs and in its most famous form, it is called cotoletta alla milanese. Today, the technique extends to chicken, turkey and even vegetables. In dishes like these, the name describes the manner of preparation and simply means that the food has been fried with bread crumbs.

The origin of the dish is as obscure as that of the name and its spelling, with both Austrians and the Italians claiming to have invented it. Proof that cotoletta alla milanese is a Milanese invention is in fact provided by two historical documents. The first is a “menu” from 1134, for a meal given by an abbot to the choristers of Sant’ Ambrogio. The list of dishes includes “lumbulos con panito”, sliced loin in breadcrumbs.

This evidence of a Lombard specialty is quoted in Pietro Verri’s, Storia di Milano. A second item of proof is a letter written by the Austrian general, Field Marshal Radetzky, to the Imperial Staff Officer, Baron Attems. After various comments and pieces of information, the general writes of the cotoletta and describes the method of preparation, speaking of it as a new discovery. Perhaps it was the Austrians who learned the dish from south of the Alps – the Milanese certainly believe so. You probably do not want to get into the middle of that argument.

In any case this is a delicious dish to make and the only decision you need to make is what to serve with the pork. I have given you a number of choices that I think go well with a milanese recipe. Choose one.

Pork Chops Milanese

(Adapted from chef, Jonathan Waxman)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 10-ounce bone-in pork rib chops
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling over the pork
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf fresh Italian country bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place each pork chop in a separate large resealable plastic bag and, using a rolling-pin, gently pound each chop until it is about 8 inches in diameter and about 3/4-inch thick.

Remove each chop from the bag and coat with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

In a food processor, pulse the bread cubes into fine crumbs (you should end up with about 3 cups of crumbs). Place the crumbs into a large paper bag.

Place the flour in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Place the pork chops in the flour, coat them well and then dip each one into the egg mixture. Transfer the chops to a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining egg mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Transfer the chops, one at a time, to the bag with the bread crumbs. Close the bag and shake well to coat each chop thoroughly.

Preheat a skillet large enough to hold 2 chops in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter and heat over medium heat until the butter is golden brown. Place two chops in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on one side. Using a spatula, gently turn each chop. Cook for 3-4 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and transfer the chops to a platter. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pan, stir to deglaze and pour the juices over the cooked chops.

Wipe out the pan and repeat this process with the remaining chops, oil, butter and lemon juice. Sprinkle the chops with the Parmesan cheese. serve with one of the side dishes below

Contorno (Side Dishes)

porkand2

Mascarpone Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

(Adapted from the Cuoco Pazzo Restaurant, Scottsdale, AZ)

Polenta comes in three types of grinds: fine (which has a consistency similar to wheat flour), semi coarse and coarse.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups polenta or ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups thinly sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus additional for garnish
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • White truffle oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil. Slowly add the polenta and whisk constantly until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the butter, corn and mascarpone cheese. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Cook until they soften slightly, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with salt to taste.

Stir the herbs and Parmesan cheese into the polenta and spread the polenta onto a serving platter. Spoon the mushrooms onto the center of the polenta and drizzle lightly with truffle oil. Sprinkle with chives and serve as a side to the grilled pork chops.

porkand3

Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems. Small-leaved plants are young and therefore mild-tasting.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 bunch (1 1/4 pounds) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

porkand4

Spinach Salad with Roasted Fennel and Grapefruit

(Adapted from A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great.)

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, then sliced lengthwise ½ inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • One 5-ounce container or bag of baby spinach
  • ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Place the fennel on the prepared baking sheet and toss the wedges with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender and the edges are browned and crispy, 30 to 35 minutes.

Grate the zest of the grapefruit into a bowl. Using a sharp knife, trim ¼ inch to ½ inch off the top and bottom of the grapefruit so it stand flat on a cutting board. Following the curve of the fruit, remove the white pith and the membrane covering the fruit. Cut in between the membranes to remove the fruit and place them in the bowl with the zest. Squeeze what remains of the grapefruit over a small bowl or measuring cup to release any juice still left in the grapefruit.

In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, olives and grapefruit segments. Add the roasted fennel along with 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve as a side to the pork.

porkand5

Greens and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts water
  • Salt for the water
  • 3 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered crosswise
  • 2 pounds Swiss chard or spinach or kale, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large stock pot over high heat, add the water and salt; bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes. Add the Swiss chard. Boil until the potatoes and chard stems are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, divided. Add the garlic and cook until brown. Add the chard and potatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring and mashing the potatoes, until the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes are coarsely mashed. If the potatoes begin to brown, reduce the heat.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve as a side with the pork.


Vegetables,herbs and spices for Italian food

How to make your Italian meals healthier:

  • The satisfaction you’ll get from your food will be much greater if you manage to cook a couple of meals from scratch each week. You’ll also know exactly what’s going into your food. Make your own sauces and meatballs from scratch and, on the weekend, when you have more time make your own bread.
  • Wherever possible, buy ingredients that are in season. The typical Italian diet uses fresh produce and this helps to give dishes a great deal of flavor. It also  means you don’t have to add fat, salt or sugar to improve the taste. Italians love to wander around local markets to select their ingredients – it’s part of enjoying food and cooking.
  • When you are preparing to cook pasta you shouldn’t allocate more than 2-3 oz of dried pasta per person. I find a kitchen scale helpful in determining the right portions. Often people make the mistake of cooking the whole package of pasta and eating far too much. Also take care not to overcook pasta. Al dente (firm to the bite) pasta is better for you than soft, overcooked pasta. Italians lightly coat their pasta instead of drowning it with sauce. Excessive sauce just adds on the calories and fat content without adding any extra flavor. 
  • Olive oil is much better for you than many regular cooking oils and definitely better than cooking with butter or margarine, if you are trying to eat healthy. Olive oil is high in good fats, like monounsaturated and omega 3, as well as containing anti-oxidants.
  • Try to eat fish twice a  week. Fish is a very important part of the Italian diet and you will find many healthy Italian recipes for shellfish, seafood stews and fish.
  • Swap high calorie desserts for a fruit salad or fresh sliced fruit, as the Italians do, instead of cake after dinner. If you buy fruit when it is in season, you’ll find the taste rewarding and it will tame the sugar cravings.
  • Use beans more often and replace some of the meat in your recipes with beans.
  • When dressing your salads use a good quality balsamic vinegar so that you can reduce the amount of oil you mix with it. Balsamic vinegar is low in calories and to make a healthy dressing just mix it with a little extra virgin olive oil as a replacement for creamy salad dressings or mayonnaise.
  • Add plenty of flavor to grilled steak or grilled fish with a gremolata instead of a cream sauce.  A gremolata is an Italian garnish of raw, finely chopped garlic, fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon zest and, when it is sprinkled on top of your fish or meat at the end of cooking, it adds flavor without a lot calories or fat.
  • Every mealtime in an Italian home is important and, as a result, we are very aware of and appreciate the food we consume. Avoid having the TV on and other distractions and concentrate on what and how much you’re eating and who you are eating with to make dinner an enjoyable occasion.

lighter1

Tenderloin with Tuscan Beans

Serve with a green vegetable, such as sautéed spinach or kale.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1 beef or pork tenderloin  (1 1/4–1 1/2 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried, julienne-cut tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Chop shallot, prosciutto (you will need about 1/3 cup) and basil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Sprinkle seasoning over meat. Place oil in the pan, then add meat; cook 6–8 minutes, turning as needed, until browned on all sides.

Transfer meat to a  baking sheet and bake 10–12 minutes or until meat reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Return the skillet to heat on medium. Place prosciutto in the pan; cook and stir 2 minutes (until lightly crisp). Add remaining ingredients (except basil);simmer 2–3 minutes or until hot.

Stir in basil. Slice meat thinly and serve alongside the beans.

lighter4

Easy Cassoulet and Olive Bread

This dish can be made over the weekend and heated for a quick weeknight dinner.

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (15-16 oz), drained
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14 oz) can (2 cups) crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Preheat a Dutch Oven on medium 1-2 minutes. Place oil and bacon in the pan; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until bacon starts to brown.

Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the pan; cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pan.

Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until chicken pulls apart easily with a fork.

Remove cover and cook 7-8 minutes (without stirring) so mixture can thicken slightly. Serve with Olive Bread. (Recipe below.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy Olive Bread

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 lb prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 (4.25-oz) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • All-purpose flour, for rolling dough

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Chop basil.

Pat pizza dough out on a floured board. Sprinkle the surface with the olives, cheese and basil and fold dough over several times until well blended.

Knead 3–4 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Place dough on baking sheet, forming it into a 15-inch loaf. Make two 1/4-inch slits diagonally across the top. Let stand 10 minutes to rest.

Bake the bread 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Bake 8–10 more minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

lighter2

Creamy Sausage Mushroom Pasta

Serve with oven-roasted asparagus.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Lighter Alfredo Style Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Pasta

  • 1 large leek, coarsely chopped
  • 2 links mild Italian pork or turkey or chicken sausage (8 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 8 oz fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

To make the sauce:

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, cream cheese and salt, stirring with a whisk until the cheeses melt.

To make the pasta:

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Chop leek (white part only; 1 cup) and chop parsley.

Remove sausage casing.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes. Add sausage; brown 3-4 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat, or until no pink remains.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente following package instructions.

Remove sausage from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

Add oil, then add mushrooms and leeks; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in wine; simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced by about one-half.

Stir in Alfredo sauce; bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta and sausage; cook and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve.

lighter3

Sautéed Balsamic Fish With Vegetable Orzo

Serve with steamed broccoli.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 teaspoon zested lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons homemade or store-bought basil pesto, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely diced plum tomatoes,
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onions
  • 1/3 cup finely diced bell peppers
  • 4 white fish fillets, (tilapia, haddock or flounder, etc.) 5-6 oz each
  • 2 teaspoons dried salt-free garlic/herb seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and stir in the orzo; cook and stir 4 minutes.

Reduce heat to low; simmer and stir often for 3-4 more minutes or until the orzo is tender and most of liquid has been absorbed. It is important to stir the orzo to prevent sticking. No draining will be needed.

Stir in 3 tablespoons pesto, tomato, onion and bell pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove pan from the heat and cover; set aside.

Preheat a large skillet  on medium-high 2-3 minutes. Season fish on both sides with the garlic/herb seasoning. Place the oil in the pan, then add the fish; cook 1-2 minutes or until fish is lightly browned. Turn fish over.

Combine broth, vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons pesto. Add to fish; cook 2-3 minutes or until mixture reduces by about one-half and fish flakes easily.

Divide orzo among four dinner plates, top with fish and some of the sauce.

lighter5

Eggs over Spinach and Polenta

Look for the polenta in the refrigerated produce section of your supermarket. Serve crusty Italian bread and a mixed green salad with this quick meal.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of prepared polenta
  • Olive oil cooking spray and olive oil
  • 2 cups homemade marinara sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat broiler

Cut 8 polenta slices off the log, each about ½ inch thick

Arrange polenta slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly brush the tops of the polenta with olive oil. Broil 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Bring the sauce to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in spinach; cover and cook for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Stir to combine. Make 4 indentations in the spinach mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until eggs are the desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle with cheese. Place 2 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; top each  with one-fourth of the spinach mixture and 1 egg.



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