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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Healthy Italian Cooking

Italians started coming to Chicago from Italy during the 1850s and by the 1940’s there was a significant Italian population of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the city. There are some stories about U.S. soldiers of Italian descent returning from Europe after World War II and experimenting with different pizza recipes, and eventually creating a deep dish pizza. The only problem with these stories is that deep dish pizza was being sold in Chicago in the early 1940’s, before the end of the war. The one story that is probably true is about a man named Sewell who created the deep dish pizza in 1943 at his bar and grill, Pizzeria Uno. It was so popular that he soon opened another place called Pizzeria Due. Soon other restaurants were serving deep dish pizza and the dish became popular. Soon Chicago became known for creating it and everyone, not just Italians, adopted it as a ‘Chicago’ food. (source FoodReference.com)

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Ingredients

1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
16 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz cooked Italian sausage, sliced thin
12 oz jar Mancini Fried Peppers with sweet onions or equivalent amount of cooked onions and peppers
2 cups marinara sauce
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a deep dish pizza pan. (My pan is 10 ½ inches in diameter)
Turn the pizza dough out into the prepared pan and use the heel of your hand and your fingertips to press it into an even layer across the bottom of the pan, then about halfway up the sides of the pan.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

When the crust is done baking, remove the pan from the oven and keep the oven temperature on 350 degrees F.
Add the toppings in the following order:
On the bottom of the crust place an even layer of cheese slices. Then add the sausage slices in an even layer. Top it with another layer of cheese slices. Then add the cooked peppers and onions. Top with a final layer of cheese slices. Pour the sauce over the top and spread it into an even layer, making sure it is covering all of the cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the edges are golden and the filling is firm. Allow the pizza to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Oven Baked Corned Beef Brisket

Servings 4 -6 servings

Ingredients

2-3 lb corned beef brisket
4 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
1 large onion quartered
3 carrots each cut into 3 pieces on the diagonal

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the brisket, fat layer up, in the middle of aluminum foil big enough to cover the whole brisket.
Spread the whole brisket with Dijon mustard. Then, evenly sprinkle brown sugar over the top and gently pet it on. Pat some onto the sides as well.


Add the onions and carrots to the sides of the brisket.
Bring the aluminum foil together and close it, covering the brisket loosely, leaving a little space between the brisket and the foil. Place the covered brisket into a rimmed roasting pan.


Bake it for 4-5 hours until very tender. Remove the meat from the foil and let it rest for a few minutes on a cutting board.
Be sure to slice the meat against the grain. Serve with the cooked cabbage, onions and carrots.

Butter Cooked Green Cabbage

Ingredients

4 servings

1 medium head green cabbage
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Remove 8 large outer leaves from the cabbage head and reserve for stuffing or another recipe. Cut the remaining head in quarters and remove the core from each. Slice the quarters into thin strips.

Melt the butter in a deep frying pan.
Sauté the shredded cabbage on low heat for at least 15 minutes or until the cabbage becomes soft and tender.
Stir often and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the baked corned beef.


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

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

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

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

Italian American Seafood Stew (Cioppino)

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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


Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks

2 servings

Ingredients

Sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 minced green onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon drained capers
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Steaks
Two 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rub both sides of the steaks with oil and garlic. Mix paprika, coarse salt, and black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of the steaks. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small glass dish. Set aside

Prepare an outdoor or stovetop grill (medium-high heat). Brush the grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to serving plates.

When the steaks are cooked and resting, heat the sauce in the microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

Green Bean Casserole

Servings 6

Ingredients

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock/broth or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Shallot topping, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8×8 ovenproof casserole dish.

Cook green beans to your liking. Boil in salted water or steam them on for 3-4 minutes..drain and place in a mixing bowl.

Sauce: In a saucepan heat the butter and add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until soft. Turn the heat down to medium and add the wine. Saute for about a minute or until the alcohol has burned off. Add the softened cream cheese and break it up in the pan so that it melts more easily. Add the chicken broth little by little and whisk to combine until the cream cheese has melted.

Turn the heat to medium-low and let the sauce bubble a little to combine flavors and thicken slightly. Add the cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk and taste to adjust seasoning.

Pour the sauce into the bowl with the green beans and stir together. Pour the green bean mixture into the buttered baking dish. Put the green bean casserole in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly around the sides. Sprinkle with the fried shallots and serve.

Fried Shallots

Ingredients

Vegetable oil
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/8-inch thick
Salt

Directions

Pour about one inch of oil into a deep skillet. Add shallots and place the pot over medium
heat. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes (turn down heat if they seem to be coloring too quickly), until they gradually become brown.
Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl. Transfer shallots to the sieve and let drain well. (Save the oil for another purpose.) Blot shallots on paper towels. They will become crisp as they cool. Sprinkle lightly with salt.’

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

6 servings.

Ingredients

6 medium tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-in. thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.(Save the use the pulp for tomato sauce.)
Combine the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning garlic powder and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for the topping. Add spinach and mozzarella cheese to the remaining crumb mixture. Sprinkle the tomato shells lightly with salt; stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Toss the reserved crumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.


My blogging friend Pam at For The Love Of Cooking recently posted a rub recipe for ribs. My family really likes ribs and after I saw Pam’s recipe, I decided to try a new rub and use her recipe the next time I cooked ribs.  I did tell her I was going to make her recipe soon and now I share that with you. The only change I made to the rub recipe was to use a brown sugar substitute because we do not use regular sugar.

Baby Back Ribs

Rub
4 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Ribs
2 racks of baby back pork ribs
Your favorite barbecue sauce

Directions

Dry the ribs on paper towels.
Combine the spice ingredients and rub 1 tablespoon (4 tablespoons) of the rub mixture on each side of the ribs. Wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight.


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Place the ribs in a large baking dish and cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 3 hours,; until the ribs are tender but not falling apart.

Remove the baking dish from oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Pour off all liquid in the baking dish. Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce begins to get a little sticky. Remove the ribs to a cutting board and cut into two-rib sections to serve.

Potato Patties

Mashed potato recipe

Ingredients

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes at room temperature
1 egg (beaten)
2 scallions, green and white parts finely chopped
1/4 cup flour or arrowroot for low carb
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Mix together the mashed potatoes, beaten egg, scallions, flour, cheese and pepper and stir well. Using a muffin scoop, measure out 8 scoops of the mixture and place on a waxed paper-lined plate. Refrigerate until time to cook.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter melts and the mixture starts to sizzle.
Using a metal spatula place the potato mixture into the frying pan and pat into 3-inch circles that are about 1/2-inch thick. Cook the potato patties until the bottom is browned and crisp, which will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
Carefully turn each patty over and cook the second side until it is brown and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove the patties from the pan and drain briefly on paper towels Serve the patties immediately.

Broccoli With Easy Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli cut into florets and the stems reserved for another recipe.

Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground

Directions

Broccoli

Steam the florets until tender and drain in a colander. Set aside in a serving dish

Sauce

In a 1 1/2 quart saucepan, heat the heavy whipping cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the cream begins to simmer (little bubbles form around the edges, whisk in the cheese, mustard, garlic and onion powder, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and black pepper. Turn heat to low.

When the cheese has melted, remove the sauce from the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Whisk again and pour over the steamed broccoli florets and serve.


Mushroom Pork Chops

Servings: 2

Ingredients

2 (1 lb) boneless pork chops (each 1 inch thick) fat removed
3 tablespoons butter, divided
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 small-medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sliced sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the pork into 4 cutlets and pound to a 1/4 inch thickness. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper.
Heat a medium skillet and when hot, add 1 tablespoon butter. After the butter melts add the pork and cook for 2 minutes per side. Remove the pork chops to a plate and tent with foil.


Add the remaining butter, onion, garlic, and mushrooms and stir to coat. Cook until the onions are tender and the mushrooms have released their liquid. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the chicken broth, sage, and thyme and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens. Place the pork chops in the sauce to heat. Serve over sautéed cabbage.

Sautéed Cabbage

2 servings

Ingredients

Half of a medium head of Savoy cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

Directions

Melt butter in a deep frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the shredded cabbage and stir.
Lower the heat and continue cooking until the cabbage is silky soft.., about 20 minutes. Stir often. Season with salt and pepper.

Green Beans with Shallots

Ingredients

1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
Salt
1 large shallot or 2 small, sliced into thin rings
Black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Cover beans with water and add a 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.
To the empty pan add the olive oil and the shallots. Cook until tender and soft. Return drained beans to the pan and add a sprinkle of black pepper. Cook for a minute or two to reheat the beans.


Chili Stuffed Peppers

Use any chili you have for this recipe but I really like my Texas-style chili for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium red bell peppers, washed
2 cups leftover Texas Style Chili, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use the oil to coat a baking dish large enough to fit the peppers.
Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds and membranes inside.
Fill the peppers with the chili, about ½ cup in each.
Place the chili stuffed peppers in the prepared baking dish, cover tightly with foil and place them in the oven.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the chili is bubbling and hot and the peppers have softened.
Top with shredded cheese, about ½ cup for each and bake, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Golden Mashed Potatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Salt
1/2 cup buttermilk or heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Mash the potatoes, adding the buttermilk until moist and the consistency that you like. Season with additional salt if needed. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Ingredients

One 2 lb. acorn squash
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried (combination of thyme, sage, rosemary, or oregano)
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cut acorn squash into quarters and remove the seeds from the center of each quarter.
Slice the quarters into 1/4 inch thick pieces. In a small mixing bowl combine the melted butter, garlic and herbs.
Place the squash on a foiled lined baking pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush the herb butter on both sides of the squash.
Roast the squash until tender, about 25 minutes.



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