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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Healthy Italian Cooking

Tri-tip steak is cut from a tri-tip roast, which is a small, triangular cut from the sirloin. It is also known as a triangle steak, bottom sirloin steak, or Santa Maria steak. Each steak is boneless, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and should be nicely marbled. Tri-tip is a good cut of meat because of its rich beef flavor, tender texture, as well as a cheaper price tag than similar steak cuts. It’s also a lean cut of meat, making it a healthier red meat option. The tri-tip was popularized in California and while it is now more widely marketed, you may need to request it from your butcher. Because tri-tip steaks are leaner than most cuts, consider marinating them.

So How did America discover this cut of beef? According to Steven Raichlen’s BBQ Bible, the story goes like this:

The year was 1952. The scene? An old Safeway store, long since razed, in this agricultural town of Santa Maria on California’s Central Coast. A one-armed butcher (really!) named Bob Schutz had the idea to spit-roast a crescent-shaped cut from the bottom of the sirloin that was normally ground into hamburger or cubed and sold as stew meat. “Are you nuts?’ a co-worker scoffed. “It’ll be tough as hell.”

But Schutz persevered, seasoning the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then threading it onto the spit. What later slid off the rotisserie blew the Santa Marians away. Carved across the grain, it was moist, tender, and satisfying—with the rich sanguine flavor of costlier beef.

I wish I could say tri-tip was an overnight success. But this cut might be the most popular cut of beef you’ve never heard of.

Here is my recipe:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2-pound beef tri-tip steak

Directions

In a large, plastic ziplock bag, blend the soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, water, garlic, and pepper. Place the beef tri-tip in the marinade. Seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a heavy ovenproof pan with olive oil and heat.on high until pan is very hot, then add the tri-tip, fat side down. Turn heat to medium and sear the beef on all sides, about 4 minutes.

Put the pan with the beef in the oven and cook it for about 10 minutes a pound, checking with an instant-read thermometer until it reaches 125 degrees F for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve the steak with your favorite sides. Mine are onion rings and a salad with blue cheese dressing.

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Have lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving? Here is a delicious recipe to use some of the leftovers in a new way. For the topping, I use a mixture of potatoes and cauliflower to reduce the number of carbs in the dish. If you are not a fan of cauliflower use all potatoes. Don’t forget the leftover cranberry sauce to add as a side.

Filling Ingredients

4 cups cubed leftover turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
Half a green bell pepper, diced
1 cup leftover green beans, diced
2 cups leftover turkey gravy

Topping

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 cups leftover mashed cauliflower
1 tablespoon melted butter.
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose either an 8×8-inch or a 9×14-inch oven-proof pan, depending on how much food you have. Oval gratin dishes or a casserole dish also work well, as do individual baking dishes. Butter the dish well.

To reheat the filling before putting the casserole in the oven.

Combine the filling ingredients in the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and heat in the microwave until warm (not hot), about 4 minutes on high.
If you don’t wish to use the microwave, reheat the mixture in a saucepan and pour into the baking dish.

To make the topping:

Thoroughly combine the mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Mix in the melted butter and cheddar cheese. Spread the topping over the filling in the baking dish, spreading it to the edges of the dish. Place the baking dish on a foil covered cookie sheet. The filling may bubble over.

Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. You will know it is done when the pie filling is bubbling hot and the topping turns golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.



Stuffed Pork Chops

For two servings you need

Ingredients

Freshly ground black pepper
2 one-inch thick boneless pork chops (about 6 oz each), trimmed of all fat and butterflied
½ cup creamed spinach (see recipe below) (leftover or frozen and defrosted)
4 slices Prosciutto di Parma
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Half of a 9 oz.package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 large or 3 medium shallots peeled and halved
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.


Pound the butterflied pork lightly just to even out their thick areas. Season the pork chops with black pepper.

Place ¼ cup creamed spinach on half of each pork chop. Fold the uncovered side over the filling. Wrap each chop with two slices of prosciutto.


Heat the oil and butter in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add the chops and brown the bottom side. Turn the chops over, add the garlic, artichokes, and shallots to the pan and cook until the second side is brown.

Stir the vegetables occasionally. Add the thyme and place the pan in the oven. Cook the pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a chop reads 140°F, about 6-8 minutes.

Creamed Spinach

This is the recipe I use for creamed spinach. I made it for Thanksgiving and had some leftover.

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cream cheese with chives and onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Two 16 oz packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

Directions

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onions; cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and stir in cream cheese until melted. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach; cook, covered, 3-5 minutes or until the spinach is soft, stirring occasionally. Can do ahead and reheat in the microwave.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

4 servings

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower
Olive oil
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove the outer leaves and trim the stem end.
Hold the cauliflower with its stem on a cutting board.
With a sharp knife, make one cut through the center of the cauliflower to divide it in half.
Cut each half into two 3/4-inch thick slices. Save the ends for another recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cauliflower steaks on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the Italian seasoning evenly over the cauliflower. Top each cauliflower steak with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Roast the cauliflower steaks in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender and golden.


The word “spiedino” is a diminutive of “spiedo” the Italian food term for skewered meat. Spiedini, or “skewers,” are a popular way of grilling throughout Italy, from north to south. Small pieces of meat, fish, vegetables, and even cheese are skewered on a spiedo, or “stick,” and then cooked over a flame. This recipe is one I have adapted from the Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

Spiedino Di Mare (Skewered Seafood)

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

6 oz sea scallops
6 oz large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, for breading
Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below
Fresh parsley, chopped
Bamboo or metal skewers
Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice, recipe below

Directions

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in warm water for a 1/2 hour.
Season the scallops and shrimp with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the grated garlic to the breadcrumbs.
Lightly coat the seafood with olive oil, then dip in the seasoned breadcrumbs.
Preheat a stovetop grill and oil the grill.
Skewer the shellfish and grill on both sides just until the shrimp turn a light pink.
Place the grilled seafood on the prepared rice and pour the lemon butter sauce over the shellfish. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Black Pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the lemon juice to the butter and warm briefly.
Add Worcestershire sauce and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside.

Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the broth and Italian seasoning in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.
Stir the rice into the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the cheese.

Italian Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 whole garlic cloves skin removed
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Few leaves of fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with olive oil. Place the whole garlic cloves in the oil and let the garlic infuse the oil and begin to caramelize. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic.


Add the peppers, onions, oregano, red pepper, salt, and pepper and allow the vegetables to cook down and soften turning them over a few times. This should take about 15 minutes.
Place the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped basil.


Sicilian Style Codfish Cakes

Makes 8-10 cakes

Ingredients

1 pound fresh cod fish fillets, poached (see directions below)
1 pound potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for coating the patties
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

Directions for making fish cakes:

Drain the poached fish and flake the fish with a fork. Be sure to remove all bones. Let cool.
Cook the potatoes in salted water and mash with the olive oil. Add the Parmesan cheese, chopped onion, garlic, 1 egg, the flaked codfish, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the fish mixture into eight equal portions, then, with floured hands form each into a flat cake, about 3-inch rounds; 1/2 inch thick.

Beat the egg with the water. Dip each fish cake into the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish cakes for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden
Drain on paper towels and serve with a remoulade or tzatziki sauce.

Poached Cod Fish

3 cups cold water
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 medium bay leaf
A large branch of fresh thyme
3 chive stalks
Salt and pepper
1 lb cod fillets
1/2 medium lemon, sliced paper-thin
3 fresh parsley sprigs, stems trimmed and coarsely chopped

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the fish in a large, shallow-sided pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low until liquid is at a simmer. Add fish in a single layer, making sure it is completely covered with liquid. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.
Poach until the cod flesh is opaque and flakes easily (the internal temperature should be 175ºF).

Low Carb Codfish Cakes

Makes 4 cakes

For this version, I made mashed cauliflower and mixed it with butter and sour cream for a previous dinner side. I reserved a ½ cup of the mixture for the codfish cakes.

Ingredients

Cakes

1 lb poached cod fillets
1/2 cup leftover mashed cauliflower mixed with sour cream
1/2 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Coating

Arrowroot powder
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for coating the patties
1 cup store-bought Low Carb panko bread crumbs or homemade, recipe below
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

Directions for making low carb fish cakes:

Drain the poached fish and flake the fish with a fork. Be sure to remove all bones. Let cool.
Add the leftover cauliflower, chopped shallots, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, flaked codfish, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours.

Divide the fish mixture into four equal portions, then, with arrowroot powder floured hands form each into a flat cake.

Dip each fish cake into the beaten egg mixture and then into the low carb breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish cakes for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden.
Drain on paper towel and serve with the tzatziki sauce.

Low Carb Panko Crumbs

I buy low carb bread, such as Smart Buns, and turn them into homemade croutons or panko crumbs.
Slice the bread into cubes.
Place cubes on a sheet pan and toast, in a single layer in a 350 F degree oven. Store the croutons in a zip-top bag in the freezer.

To make breadcrumbs: Place the toasted cubes in a food processor and pulse to create course breadcrumbs.
Store the remainder in an air-tight, zip-seal bag in the freezer.

Tzatziki Topping (cucumber yogurt sauce)

Mix 1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek-style yogurt with ¼ of a cucumber (seeds removed, grated and squeezed to remove extra liquid), 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped dill.

Spiralized Carrot & Beet Salad

Servings 4-6 servings

Ingredients

2 carrots spiralized or one 12 oz package of frozen Green Giant carrot spirals, defrosted
2 beets spiralized or one 12 oz package of frozen Green Giant beet spirals, defrosted
1/2 of a shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
A generous handful of chopped parsley

Dressing
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
A couple of dashes of hot sauce

Directions

Peel and spiralize the carrots and beets or defrost the frozen spirals in a colander and dry on paper towels.


Cut the spirals into shorter strands for the salad and place in large salad bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the shallots, chives, parsley, and almonds.
In a separate small bowl whisk together lemon and olive oil with a couple dashes of hot sauce.
Pour dressing over veggies and mix well. Serve with the codfish cakes.


One of the fastest developing trends in cooking this year has been the use of spiralized veggies. Regardless of the season or the recipe, the spiralizer has given cooks a way to substitute pasta or carb-heavy noodles with fresh squash, beets, and other root vegetables. Green Giant has launched an entire line of frozen spiralized veggies with four different varieties—zucchini, butternut squash, beets, and carrots without any additives—only the vegetable itself. Supermarkets also sell spiralized vegetables in their produce sections.


I find the frozen variety very useful because they are readily available and unlike the fresh veggies, they don’t spoil quickly. I experimented with these frozen veggies and learned not to follow the package directions for microwaving or boiling. Instead, I defrost the veggies, dry them on a kitchen towel and saute them or add them to a sauce. They turn out great – not at all soggy and they retain a fresh taste. Try the recipe below and you will be surprised.

Butternut Squash Pasta

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube or ¼ teaspoon vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Two 12 oz packages frozen butternut squash spirals
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, chopped and parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Defrost the frozen butternut squash in a colander early in the day you plan to cook. Transfer the squash to a kitchen towel to dry.

In a saucepan, saute the onion, mushrooms, fresh oregano and garlic in the olive oil. Add tomatoes, bouillon, and stir. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the cream and butternut squash spirals and simmer for a few minutes until the squash and cream are hot.
Top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese and serve with the grilled sausage.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs. Italian Rope Sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Brush the sausage with olive oil.

Heat the outdoor grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 15 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry. Cook for 15 minutes more.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degrees F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through. If not, continue to cook until the temperature is reached.

Note: to cook on a stovetop grill, heat the pan, lower the heat to low and oil the pan. Cook the sausage for about the same time as above or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.


Pork Schnitzel

2 servings

Ingredients

2 boneless pork chops about 1 lb total
1 egg
1 teaspoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon honey or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Cut the pork chops in half horizontally to make 4 cutlets. Place the pork between sheets of plastic and pound until thin.


In a shallow dish, beat the egg and cream together.
Combine the flour, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder and poultry seasoning in another shallow dish.


Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick pan.
Dip the meat cutlets first into the egg, then into the breading. Fry the cutlets until golden brown on both sides and cooked through – about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined serving plate and keep warm.

For the sauce:

Heat the butter, sweetener, and applesauce in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and mustard until combined and creamy. Stir in the parsley. Drizzle some of the sauce over the cutlets and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Oven Roasted Butternut Squash Spirals

Ingredients

1-12 oz package frozen butternut squash veggie spirals, defrosted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper, to taste

Directions

Early in the day, place the frozen squash noodles in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray and place the baking sheet in the oven while it preheats.


Place the squash spirals on a kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Transfer the squash to the hot prepared baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat with tongs. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and toss again. Spread out on the baking sheet.


Roast until crispy about 20 minutes. Toss the spirals after 10 minutes.

Slow Cooked Green Beans

Ingredients

1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs

Directions

In a large, deep skillet with a cover, melt the butter and add the garlic and Italian herbs. Stir in the green beans. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender, about 15 minutes.



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