Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

paduauniversity

Padua University

Padua is a province in the Veneto region of Italy. It is home to some of the masterpieces from the Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture period and the towns of Cittadella and Montagnana are famous for their well-preserved Medieval city walls. There are also many ancient and historic villas in the countryside. The hills offer a relaxing naturalistic site often covered with woods, while the eastern slopes offer ancient spa sites, such as Terme Euganee, Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Galzignano Terme and Battaglia Terme. There is a small part of the Venetian Lagoon lying inside the province, the Valle Millecampi (“one-thousand-fields valley”) that includes naturalistic routes for cycling or horse-riding.

Padua Basilica

Padua Basilica

The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second oldest in Italy. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students and in 2013 was ranked “best university” among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students.

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy and law. During this time, the university adopted the Latin motto: Universa universis patavina libertas (Paduan Freedom is Universal for Everyone). Nevertheless, the university had a turbulent history, and there was no teaching in 1237–61, 1509–17 and 1848–50.

Botanical Garden of Padova

Botanical Garden of Padova

The Botanical Garden of Padova, established by the university in 1545, was one of the oldest gardens of its kind in the world (after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon). In addition to the garden, the university also manages nine museums, including a History of Physics Museum.

The University began teaching medicine from the day it was founded and played a leading role in the identification and treatment of diseases and ailments, specializing in autopsies and the inner workings of the body. The university houses the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatre in Europe, dating from 1595.

Padua's anatomical theater

Padua’s anatomical theater

Since 1595, Padua’s famous anatomical theater drew artists and scientists studying the human body during public dissections. Anatomist Andreas Vesalius held the chair of Surgery and Anatomy and in 1543 published his anatomical discoveries in De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The book triggered great public interest in dissections and caused many other European cities to establish anatomical theatres.

The university became one of the universities of the Kingdom of Italy in 1873 and, ever since, has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific and scholarly research. In the field of mathematics alone, its professors have included such figures, as Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, Giuseppe Veronese, Francesco Severi and Tullio Levi Civita. On 25 June 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, a Venetian noblewoman and mathematician, became the first woman to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

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Paduan Hens

Padua’s cuisine has its simple roots in the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard, Farmyard products include: the well-known Paduan hen, Polverara hen, goose, guinea-hen and capon.

All varieties of chicory are cultivated in the countryside of Padua and include the Variegated Castelfranco, Early and Late Red Treviso, Red Chioggia or Red Verona varieties, are always present in the cooking proposals of the restaurants of Padua. Their soft and slightly bitter taste is particularly appetising in risotto dishes.

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Padua is a producer of both the white and of the green species of asparagus. Boiled eggs and asparagus or risotto with asparagus are part of the springtime cuisine.

Like the rest of the Veneto region, Padua is a land of well-known vineyards. DOC wines are produced in five areas of the province.Wines events and exhibitions are usually organized for spring and autumn.

Since Pre-Roman times olive trees have been cultivated in the Euganean Hills. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in the area is under the protection of the Association of the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills. The color of the oil is typically golden green, obtained by using cold-pressing techniques and bottling after careful decanting without filtering.

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Montagnana is renowned for its ham, a tradition rooted in the rural population, called, prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, by the locals. The sweet taste, the tenderness, the pink color and the unmistakable smell guarantee the identity of this product, so much so, that these properties were granted by the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) seal and are now safeguarded by the Consortium of the Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo, based in Montagnana. On the third Sunday of May, Montagnana organizes Piacere Montagnana, the festival of sweet ham.

In summer Padua produces its excellent cheeses in the northern grazing areas and among them are Grana Padano, Montasio and Asiago.

The cooking traditions of Padua are passed on to the generations that follow with only slight changes to adjust to more modern tastes and likes, while preserving the old recipes.

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Tramezzini

Tramezzini are very common in Padua. They are stuffed triangular sandwiches made of chewy white bread and usually served with a glass of Prosecco.

Ingredients

  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Slices of Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 slices bread

Directions

Remove the crust from the bread.

Chop the mushrooms.

In a bowl, stir together the mushrooms, cream cheese, parsley, lemon juice and pepper until creamy. Spread a layer of mushrooms on each slice of bread.

Top four pieces of bread with some ham. Turn the other four slices upside down on top of the other one. Press and cut diagonally.

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Risotto con gli Asparagi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups homemade or purchased low sodium broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rice: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano or Arborio
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Grana Padano grated cheese, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pour the broth into a pot and heat. Keep at a simmer.

Trim and discard the tough woody stems of the asparagus (usually about an inch). Slice the spears crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Leave the tips intact.

Place 1 tablespoon of butter and the extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot.

Add the onions and cook over med-high heat for a couple of minutes, until transparent.

Add the sliced asparagus (reserve the tips for later use) and salt.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus are soft and slightly golden in color.

Add the rice and “toast”, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until the rice acquires a light golden color.

Add the white wine and stir for one minute, letting it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of hot broth to the rice and lower the heat to medium. Add the asparagus tips.

Stir every 30 seconds or so. Keep adding broth, ladle by ladle, as soon as the liquid is absorbed, slightly covering the rice each time, until the rice is cooked.

You will need approximately 5 cups of broth, but it depends on the rice variety, so be prepared to add more or less.

Cooking time for the rice will be 14 to 18 minutes, depending on the rice variety used. The final consistency of the risotto should be creamy.

Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 cup cheese and heavy cream.

Rest for one minute and serve with freshly ground black pepper and the reserved cheese.

paduachicken

Paduan Chicken Cacciatore

Authentic Chicken Cacciatore doesn’t use tomatoes. It was a traditional Italian dish that hunters could easily make in the field if they needed to cook a meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 Padua chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 20 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, diced
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 sage branch
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • Dash red wine vinegar
  • Chianti red wine
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the chicken up into smaller pieces.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Brown in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pan and brown gently. Add the diced prosciutto and place the chicken back in the pan.

Add the herbs and vinegar and allow it to evaporate.

Add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender and falls off the bone.

Serve with either polenta or slices of bread and with steamed or roasted vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer is a great time to entertain and if you can do it outdoors, it is even better. Casual get-togethers call for easy to do recipes using foods that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you are hosting or attending such a party, thoughts usually run along the “what should I make” category. Since I live where it is quite hot six months of the year, I tend not to serve or take mayonnaise flavored dishes. Here are some ideas for each menu course of what to make or bring to an outdoor party. These have all been stamped with approval from my family and friends.

Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms

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Ingredients

  • 3 lb mixed fresh mushrooms
  • 3 oz. dried mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice fresh mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until tender — about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze to dry.

Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Cook, while stirring frequently, over high heat until the mushrooms release their liquid — about 10 minutes.

Add the shallots, garlic, rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add broth, cognac, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and the thyme.

Transfer skillet to the oven and roast, stirring twice, for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serve warm with grilled bread.

Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad

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This is a popular dish, so I often divide the salad onto smaller serving dishes, so I can have them available in several areas.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds tomatoes,  quartered
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish

Directions

Oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Whisk together the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

Mix the shrimp with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Grill the shrimp, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.

Mix the grilled shrimp with the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature.

Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers

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This dish is always a big hit with everyone.

Serves 6

For the sausage:

  • 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage

Directions

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

Keep a third of the grill indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over two-thirds of the firebox and leaving one-third coal-free.

On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Lightly brush or rub the sausage with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F.

Cut the sausages into two-inch lengths and set aside.

For the peppers and onions:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To finish the dish:

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

Add the tomato sauce and heat.

Add the grilled sausage links to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat until the sausage is warm. Serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.

Side Dish: Corn Pudding

cornpudding

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh (about 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish or another shallow baking dish of about the same size.

In a mixing bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn and the salt and black pepper; Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1 cup of corn and half-and-half in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the eggs and cayenne. Blend thoroughly.

Spoon the corn/pepper mixture into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the top. Pour the egg mixture over all.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 40 minutes.Garnish with chopped parsley.

Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler

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Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 to 6 medium (4 cups) peaches, peeled and sliced

Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the filling ingredients except the peaches in a mixing bowl.

Stir in peaches. Pour into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.

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Make the topping:

Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in the egg and cream just until moistened. Spread the topping over the peach filling; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar.

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Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Serve warm or chilled.

 


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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 


hot weather construction

It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers ­– all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.

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Italian Cantaloupe Salad

This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 12 Italian green olives
  • 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad

Good side for grilled meats or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.

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Spaghetti Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
  • 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
  •  2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • Basil leaves, sliced thin

Directions

In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,

Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.

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Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad

Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below
  • Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below

Directions

Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.

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Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.

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Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.

Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.

Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.

Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.

Summer Peach and Corn Salad

Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salad

  • 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
  • 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.

Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese. 

You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.

 


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Summer is a wonderful time to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with your friends. Serving appetizers and drinks are a great way to entertain when it is hot. You want easy to prepare recipes so you are not in the kitchen for hours and you want to use simple, common ingredients that you usually have in your pantry or refrigerator. Below are a few of my easy to make suggestions.

Mediterranean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.

Oven Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash Rounds

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Homemade Marinara Sauce, (see recipe here)
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 2 medium yellow squash, ends and neck trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.

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In a plastic bag, combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.

In another shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place the squash slices in the bag with the flour and shake until they are coated.

Next, place each slice in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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Place the squash rounds on the prepared baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Marinated Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4-ounces of cream cheese, quartered
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted black and green Italian olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted crostini, pita chips or crackers for serving

Directions

Place the cheese quarters in a medium container. Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sun-dried tomatoes over and around the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt.

Pour the olive oil over the mixture. Squash the mixture with a fork and cover the container. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Bring the cheese mixture to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the marinated cheese mixture into a serving dish.

Arrange crostini, pita or crackers around the dish with a couple of small knives for serving.

Tuna Dip

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Serve with fresh celery, radishes, carrots and thin, crispy crackers.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 8-ounces canned tuna
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.


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Don’t let your herbs go wild in the garden or get moldy in the refrigerator. There are lots of way to incorporate them into your recipes.

A general guideline for using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use dried herbs.

Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.

For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors.

Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor.

Storing Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator for a few days.

After washing, you can mince the herbs and place them halfway up in the sections of an ice-cube tray. Cover herbs with cold water and freeze until solid.

Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag. Drop them into soups, stews and sauces as needed.

Some Other Ways To Use Herbs

If you love a big, green salad, add fresh herbs to the mix.

Add a big handful of fresh herbs to a basic mixture of equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, stir and then remove from the heat. Once completely cooled, strain out the herbs (discard) and use the simple syrup to sweeten iced coffee or tea and cocktails.

Fresh herbs are a perfect in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. They round out the fatty and sharp flavors from the oil and vinegar.

Combine finely chopped herbs and room-temperature butter to make a spread that compliments bread or cooked meat or vegetables.

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Summer Squash Chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 medium zucchini and 2 medium patty pan squash, diced
  • 1 large sweet (Vidalia) onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups Summer Vegetable Stock (corn cob stock) (recipe here)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot; add the garlic, celery and onion. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly salt the vegetables. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.

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Add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 25 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lemon juice, corn and herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls topped with a tablespoon of sour cream.

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Creamy Herb Dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This makes a great party dip with lots of fresh summer vegetables and pita chips.

It is best to process all the ingredients in the food processor with the exception of the yogurt, for the best consistency.

Use either whole or low-fat Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (but don’t use nonfat).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Process mayonnaise, shallot, chives, basil and lemon juice in food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover dip and refrigerate until thickened, at least 1 hour. (Dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days.

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Spaghetti with Clam and Herb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams in broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red-pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. (or use the quick skillet method – see recipe here). Drain pasta and set aside.

Drain the clams over a large measuring cup. Set the clams aside. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of clam broth.

Heat oil in the same pan that the pasta was cooked in over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, herbs, hot pepper and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring as needed, until the shallots have softened.

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Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the clam broth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked spaghetti, turn the heat down and let the spaghetti simmer for two minutes.

Add the drained clams and let the mixture heat for a minute or two. Serve in pasta bowls with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

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Pan-Fried Herbed Pork Cutlets

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely minced herbs (any combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, chives, parsley)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 pork cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick and each weighing about 4 oz)
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Combine the herbs, fennel and salt in a shallow dish.  Place the flour in a second shallow dish. Pat chops dry with paper towels.

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Trim the cutlets of fat and pound them lightly with a meat mallet to make them uniform in thickness. Press the herbs on both sides of the cutlets and then dredge the cutlets in the flour (do not discard flour).

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Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Dredge cutlets in the flour a second time just before cooking.

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Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the pork cutlets until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 heads tender lettuce (such as Boston or Bibb), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, sage and chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • Sliced red and white radishes
  • 1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Directions

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and mustard; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, shallots, radishes and herbs. Add dressing and toss to combine. Add almonds and serve.

Variation: The dressed salad can also be placed—open-face sandwich fashion—on top of grilled bread that has brushed with olive oil.



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