Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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Making cookies for Christmas is an important part of my family’s holiday tradition. This week I am sharing some of our favorite recipes.

Rainbow/Venetians/Neapolitan/Tri-Color Cookies

Ingredient

1- 8 ounce can almond paste
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 drops green food coloring
8 drops red food coloring
12-ounce jar apricot preserves
8 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.
Break up paste in large mixer bowl with a fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.
Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Stir into almond mixture with a wooden spoon, using turning motion similar to folding.
Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of the prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring. Spread into the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups batter red. Spread in remaining pan.
Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.


Place red layer on upturned jelly roll pan or large platter. Heat preserves; strain; reserve chunks in a strainer for other uses. Spread half of the strained preserves over red layer. Top with a white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with a green layer, top side up.
Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with a large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water.

Trim off the uneven cake edges with a sharp knife. Frost the top layer with half of the melted chocolate. Let chocolate dry. Turn the rectangle over and frost the remaining chocolate. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.

Marshmallow Fudge Squares

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon. salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 (6 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons milk
30 large marshmallows

Directions:

In a 1-quart saucepan melt butter and chocolate squares. Remove from heat.
Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Into large mixer bowl, measure flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat at low-speed until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. With a spoon, stir in chocolate mixture. Spread mixture in prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate pieces and milk. Remove from heat.
Remove baking pan from oven; arrange marshmallows in rows on top of the baked layer. Bake 5 minutes longer or until marshmallows are soft and puffed. Remove to wire rack. With a metal spatula, flatten marshmallows and spread evenly.
Drizzle melted chocolate mixture over marshmallow layer. Cool on rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate, until cold and the top is firm, about 2 hours. When cold, cut into small squares,
Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator to use up within 3 days.
Cookies may be frozen with between layers of wax paper.


Making cookies for Christmas is an important part of my family’s holiday tradition. This week I will share with some of our favorite recipes.

Pine-nut (Pignoli)Macaroons

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

1 can (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 cup pine nuts, pignoli

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and lemon peel with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Italian Wedding Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
powdered sugar ( for rolling baked cookies in)

Directions

Cream together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy; stir in vanilla.
Whisk together flour and salt; add gradually to butter mixture; stir in chopped nuts.
Chill dough if it seems too soft.
Form dough into 1 inch balls and place onto parchment-lined or ungreased baking sheets.


Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or just until the cookies start to turn light golden-brown; remove from oven and allow to cool slightly; while cookies are still warm (but NOT hot) remove them from baking sheets and roll, a few at a time, in powdered sugar until evenly coated; cool cookies completely on wire racks.
Cookies may (optionally) be rolled in powdered sugar a second time once cooled to room temperature. Cookies freeze well.
Yield: 48 cookies.


 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 pound tender steak{beef tenderloin tails, ribeye, or flank steak} trimmed, cut into 1-inch squares
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
3 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese rice wine, divided
3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
2 ½ teaspoons packed light brown sugar, divided
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon peanut oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
6 scallions, white parts sliced thin on a bias, green parts cut into 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Directions

Combine 1 tablespoon water and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add beef and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1½ teaspoons cornstarch, and ½ teaspoon sugar together in a small bowl. Add soy sauce mixture to beef, stir to coat, and let sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.

Stir-fry Sauce
Whisk remaining ¼ cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 2 tablespoons sherry, remaining 1½ teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in the second bowl.

Heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of the beef in a single layer. Cook without stirring for 1 minute. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown on both sides, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining beef and 2 teaspoon oil.

Return skillet to high heat, add 2 teaspoons peanut oil, and heat until beginning to smoke. Add bell peppers and scallion greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are spotty brown and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer vegetables to bowl with beef.

Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Return beef and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine.

Whisk sauce to recombine. Add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened, about 30 seconds. Serve over rice


Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Leaves

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons peanut oil oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated garlic
2 scallions, chopped
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb total), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 -oz sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup bottled hoisin sauce
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
12 large red- or green-leaf lettuce leaves

Directions

Heat a wok or a 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderately high heat until just smoking, then add oil. Add ginger, garlic, and scallions and stir-fry for 45 seconds.

Add chicken and mushrooms and stir-fry until just cooked through about 2 minutes. Add water chestnuts and sauce. Stir-fry until heated for about 1 minute.

Transfer to a bowl.
Have guests serve themselves by spooning the chicken mixture into lettuce leaves and wrapping leaves around filling to enclose.

Pork Fried Rice

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 2 cups)

Ingredients

1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons peanut oil or olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Chinese chili sauce
1 boneless pork loin chop, one-inch thick, cooked, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 cups cooked, chilled long-grain rice
4 oz diced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained

Sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Chinese wine {shaosing}
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Directions

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a skillet and add the egg. Scramble the egg and remove to a small bowl/

Combine the chili sauce with the cubed pork.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil to a pan, swirling to coat. Add pork, celery, and scallions to the pan, and sauté for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the skillet and add the rice, stirring well to coat the rice with oil; cook, without stirring, for 2 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Add the sauce and stir-fry for one minute. Add the pork mixture, water chestnuts, and egg. Stir-fry until all the ingredients are combined and hot.
Serve with the Lettuce wraps.


Sausage Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 containers (2- 26 and 1-14 oz) chopped Italian tomatoes
1 tomato container filled with water

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the sausage. Remove the sausage to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and site until tender about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, seasoning, and tomato paste. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, Add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, and add the sausage to the sauce. Partially clever the pot and simmer the sauce until thickened for about 2 hours. Remove the sausage to a serving bowl.

Spaghetti with Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb whole grain spaghetti
Italian Sausage Sauce, recipe above
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated parmesan ch

For the pasta
Heat a large pit of salted water to boiling, add the spaghetti, and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain Return it to the pasta pan and add 2 cups of tomato sauce, stir gently, and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir again. Place the pasta in a pasta serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of warm ricotta cheese on top. Serve the sausage on the side.

Italian Romaine Lettuce Salad

Ingredients

1 small head of Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into ring
Italian black olives to taste

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces.
Place the greens, olives, and onion in a medium salad bowl.
In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.


Broccoli-Cheddar Mac & Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

6 ounces penne pasta {whole wheat}
1 medium stalk of fresh broccoli, cut into small florets {about 10-12 oz]
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, adding broccoli for the last minute of cooking. Drain.

Wipe the pot dry and place over medium-low heat. Add butter and swirl until melted. Sprinkle flour over the butter; whisk until smooth. Slowly add milk, salt, and smoked paprika; cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar cheese. Add the drained pasta and broccoli, stirring to coat well.
Combine the panko and Parmesan cheese.

Transfer the mixture to an 8–inch baking dish and sprinkle with panko mixture. Bake15 minutes.

Serve with a tomato salad.


Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy

2 servings

Ingredients

8 large fresh sea scallops
2 Tablespoons. chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Chinese chili sauce
2 teaspoons. soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons. cornstarch
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 Tablespoon. minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
One medium head bok choy, trimmed and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 thin carrot, sliced on the bias
3 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup chopped scallions

Directions

Rinse the scallops under cold water, remove the muscle and any visible bits of shell or grit, and set on paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the scallops dry.

In a small bowl combine the broth, chili sauce, soy sauce, and cornstarch.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact.

Swirl in 1 Tablespoon of the oil, add the ginger and garlic, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry for 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant.

Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok. Carefully add the scallops and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the scallops begin to sear. Sprinkle on 1/4 tsp. of the salt and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the scallops are opaque but not cooked through.

Transfer the scallops to a plate.

Swirl the remaining 1 Tbs. oil into the wok, add the bok choy, carrot, and bell peppers, sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the bok choy just begins to turn bright green. Add the mushrooms and scallions and stir-fry for 30 seconds

Stir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Return the scallops with any juices that have accumulated to the wok. Cook until the scallops are just cooked. Serve with rice.


Pan-Seared steak

Ingredients

2 center-cut beef tenderloin steaks {filet mignin}, about 5-6 oz each
Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Pound the steaks in plastic wrap until they are an even ½=inch thickness. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a nonstick medium skillet unit, very hot, about 5 minutes. Place the steaks in the pan, lower the heat to medium. Cook 3 minutes without moving the steaks. Turn them over, place one tablespoon of butter on each steak and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.

Twice Baked Potatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large russet potato, 12 ounces
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 slice bacon cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Brush lightly with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a sheet tray covered with foil until tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

While still hot, cut the potato in half lengthwise and scoop the potato flesh into a medium bowl, leaving a 1/4-inch shell all around on the potato shell. Season the insides of the potato shell lightly with salt and pepper.

To the bowl with the potato flesh, add the sour cream and butter. Use an electric hand mixer or potato masher and mix until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mound into the potato shells and bake for 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler to high and brown the tops of the potatoes,t. Sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Spinach Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

6 cups fresh baby7 spinach leaves, washed and spinner dried
½ cup diced red onion
2 radishes, sliced thin
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients in a medium bowl and toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add enough of your favorite dressing to lightly coat the spinach leaves. Divide into two salad dishes and serve with the steak.


For 2 servings

Ingredients

12 oz Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 fennel bulbs stalks discarded, bulbs halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges through the stem end
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper
12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes, fennel, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a bowl. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or dish and roast until just tender, about 25 minutes.

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Toss shrimp, oregano, lemon zest, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a bowl.

Using a spatula, flip potatoes and fennel so browned sides are facing up. Scatter shrimp and feta over top. Return to oven and roast until shrimp are cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle olives and parsley over top and drizzle with extra oil. Serve with lemon wedges.

Adapted from an America’s Test Kitchen

 


Ingredients

10-ounce package fresh cheese and spinach tortellini
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or use black pepper)
8 -9 oz boneless chicken breast, diced
salt to taste
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water and drain the pasta. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken cubes and cook for 10 minutes until cooked through the center.
Lower the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, pepper, and cream. Stir until the cheese melts. Add the pasta.
If the sauce is too thick, add the pasta water to thin it out. Season with salt if needed. Add chopped parsley and serve in individual pasta bowls.



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