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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

In Italian, “torta” simply means a sweet or savory cake. A traditional Italian torta usually includes ricotta cheese, parmesan, parsley, and onions. There are also variations that contain meat and some that are completely vegetarian. These vegetarian tortes sometimes contain artichokes and herbs for flavor. This torta is made in a springform pan instead of a traditional pie pan.

I have made potato tortes many times through the years, but this summer, not only did I have an abundance of potatoes but also an abundance of yellow squash from my CSA share. So I thought why not combine them. Turned out delicious. Serve with a mixed green salad and if you want a side of meat, grilled sausage would be good. This torte also makes an excellent antipasto course. Serve at room temperature cut into thin wedges.

Summer Squash and Potato Torta

8 servings

Ingredients

1 green onion, finely minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 1/2 pounds yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan in heavy-duty foil.
In a mixing bowl combine the green onion, Parmesan cheese, flour, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes in concentric circles in the bottom of the prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.

Layer 1/2 of the squash slices in concentric circles on top of the potatoes/cheese mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Repeat with a second layer of the potatoes, cheese mixture, squash slices and cheese mixture. Drizzle the olive oil over the top Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake until the potatoes are almost tender, 90 minutes. Remove the foil; bake uncovered until the torte begins to brown and potatoes are tender, about 90 minutes longer.

Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Remove the sides of the pan and place a serving plate on top. Turn the torte over and remove the pan bottom. Cut the torte into wedges to serve.

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Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese (literally, the salad from Capri) is the perfect summertime dish for cooks in a hurry; slicing is the hardest part. The salad was created in the 1950s at the Trattoria da Vincenzo for regulars out for a light lunch. They’d order a just-picked tomato and fresh fior di latte (cows-milk mozzarella — no buffalo on Capri). The salad has evolved on the island to include a few leaves of rughetta (wild arugula) and a pinch of dried wild oregano, both local products; everywhere else in Italy it takes the form of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. The dressing is always a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil — only. Vinegar would destroy the delicate flavor of the cheese and is never used. Sometimes I add Italian black olives to the salad for a change but it is not traditional.

Ingredients

2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup packed fresh basil or arugula leaves, washed well and spun dry
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled if using arugula instead of basil
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

On a large platter arrange tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Sprinkle salad with oregano and arugula and drizzle with oil. Season salad with salt and pepper.

Turkey Scaloppine

Ingredients

1 lb turkey breast cutlets
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, cubed
Minced fresh parsley and lemon wedges for serving

Directions

Flatten turkey to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. In another shallow bowl, beat egg and water together. In a third shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cheese.

Dredge turkey in flour mixture, then dip in the egg mixture and coat with crumbs. Place on a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.


Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook the turkey cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side or until meat is no longer pink and the coating is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

 


In my region, CSA’s, local farms and farmers’ markets are bursting with produce. There are so many choices that it is difficult to know where to start. Piles of summer squash might be a good place to begin. Zucchini and summer squash are plentiful during the summer months because they are easy to grow and mature relatively quickly. Some of the more common types are:

  • Patty Pan Squash is a variety of summer squash notable for its small size, round and shallow shape, and scalloped edges, somewhat resembling a small toy top, or flying saucer.
  • Zucchini is a green summer squash also called marrow in some areas of the world.
  • Yellow Crookneck Squash is a lemon-yellow, 6-inch vegetable, with a slightly bent neck that earns it the name Crookneck. For best flavor, pick summer squash like crookneck and zucchini when they are small
  • Cupcake is a hybrid squash shaped like a cupcake, with the soft edible skin of zucchini and the delicate, sweet flavor of patty-pan squash.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

Sausage Stuffed Round Squash

4 main dish portions, or 8 side portions

Ingredients

4 pattypan, cupcake or round zucchini squashes, stems removed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup minced celery
1/2 pound cooked, crumbled Italian sausage
1 large slice Italian bread, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh chopped Italian herbs
4 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds with a serrated spoon, being careful not to tear through the squash. Remove some of the squash flesh with a serrated spoon leaving a ½ inch shell. Lightly brush the insides of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and garlic, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped squash flesh, onion, and celery. Cook until soft. Add the crumbled sausage, bread and herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes to soften all the ingredients.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide filling evenly among the squash halves, piling it up in the center. Top with shredded parmesan cheese. Add water to the baking dish to the depth of about 1-inch. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the squash halves are tender and the tops are golden.

Yellow Squash Casserole

This yellow summer casserole is a favorite all year round, great for family meals during the summer but also popular for holiday dinners, especially in the South. You can use yellow summer or crookneck squash for this casserole. The recipe ingredients are easily increased for a potluck dish or large family dinner.
This casserole is a good side dish that can take the place of a heavier starch, and it goes well with just about any protein, especially chicken or fish. Variations include adding chopped red peppers or green peppers with the onion that adds a little color as well as flavor. You can spice it up by adding chilies as well.

Ingredients

3 medium yellow summer squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion. finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons melted butter (divided)
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (divided)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 1-quart casserole or baking dish.

Slice the summer squash and place it in a medium saucepan. Cover the squash with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Place the pan over high heat and bring the squash to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan; continue to cook until tender, 15 minutes.
Drain the squash thoroughly; return it to the saucepan and mash it. Add pepper to taste.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg. Add the mayonnaise, chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Stir to blend thoroughly. Stir the mashed squash into the egg and mayonnaise mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole. Top the casserole with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter and then sprinkle them over the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve squash casserole hot.

Squash Frittata

Ingredients

8 oz Italian sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 pound small yellow crookneck, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided plus extra for the broiling pan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 large eggs, beaten
3 oz sliced Italian fontina cheese, torn into pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to the high broil setting. Set the oven rack in the oven 3 to 4- inches from the broiler.
In a medium bowl toss the sliced sausage and squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper.
Lay the sausage and squash in a single layer on a foil-lined half sheet pan that has been brushed with oil. Broil the sausage and squash for 5 minutes. Turn them over and broil for another 5 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh colander.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk the eggs, herbs, salt, and pepper together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the drained sausage and squash. Stir.
Heat a 12-inch nonstick, oven-safe saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and stir with a silicone spatula to make sure the egg gets under the squash mixture. Distribute the Fontina cheese around the top of the frittata. Cook without stirring until the egg mixture has set on the bottom and begins to set on top, about 4 to 5 minutes. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the broiler back on and brown the top of the frittata, about 2 minutes,
Loosen the frittata from the pan by moving the spatula around the edges. Slide the frittata onto a plate or other serving dish, and cut into 6 servings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 small red potatoes (7 oz) peeled and diced
2 quarts chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups yellow squash, diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 cup okra, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup mixed herbs finely chopped (dill, parsley, and chives)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring the broth and water to a boil and add the garlic, onions, potatoes, turmeric and a generous pinch of salt. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add in the remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables are tender about 15 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls and garnish the soup with grated cheese.


I can buy freshly shucked clams at my fish market, which I prefer for this type of pasta dish. Clams in the shell are fine for seafood stews but I don’t like trying to remove the shell from the clam and eat it with spaghetti. I know not everyone would agree, but this is the answer if you don’t like dealing with the shells in your pasta.

Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

Ingredients

1 pint wild caught shucked clams with liquid (16 oz fresh, canned or frozen)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

If the clams are large, I like to chop them into smaller pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the thin spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.

Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook one minute. Add wine and cook for a minute. Stir in chopped clams with their juice. Add salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat just until hot.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the clam sauce and toss in the skillet letting the pasta cook in the sauce for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve in pasta bowls.

Add a green salad and some crusty Italian bread to round out the meal.


This classic Italian sauce is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance, the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the Lazio version. Spices are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic). It is usually served with spaghetti but we like it with seafood.

Seafood in an Italian Spicy Tomato Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 fish fillets,(I used sea bass) (about 1 1/2 inches thick 4 ounces each)
4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
26 oz container finely diced Italian tomatoes (I used the Pomi brand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

For the sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet.
Add the anchovy paste and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and continue to stir.
Pour in the tomatoes, oregano and basil and heat to a simmer. Add the olives and capers and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

For the fish
Season the fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly flour the fish shaking off extra flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Brown the fish fillets and shrimp on both sides.

Pour a cup to 1 ½ cups of sauce over the fish in the small skillet and cover the skillet. Heat for 2-3 minutes. Save the remaining sauce for pasta.

Place a piece of grilled bread in each serving bowl. Divide the fish evenly and place it on top of the bread. Spoon the sauce over each portion and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.


After Russia sold Alaska to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, waves of Russian immigrants fleeing religious persecution moved to the United States. These groups generally settled in coastal cities, including Brooklyn (New York City) on the East coast, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, on the West coast.

Many of the city dwellers took jobs in factories, often as garment workers. Those who preferred rural living benefited from the Homestead Act and set up farms across the West, while still others worked in mills and mines in the Midwest. Russians contributed their diverse cultural traditions and devout faith (for some Judaism and for others Russian Orthodox) to the places they settled. Unlike immigrants from other countries, few returned to Russia—America had become their homeland.

Emigration was restricted during the Soviet era, however, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, immigration to the U.S. increased considerably. Some Ukrainian Americans, Belarusian Americans, Rusyn Americans along with Jewish Americans, German Americans from the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, identify themselves as Russian Americans. According to the Institute of Modern Russia’s 2011 report, the Russian American population was estimated to be 3.13 million.

In 2007 Russian was the primary spoken language in 851,174 homes, according to the U.S. Census. The New York City metropolitan area has historically been the primary place of settlement for Russian immigrants legally admitted into the United States. Brighton Beach, Brooklyn continues to be the most important demographic and cultural center for Russian Americans. However, as Russian Americans have climbed in socioeconomic status, they have moved toward more affluent parts of the New York metropolitan area, notably Bergen County, New Jersey.

Russian cuisine tends toward the starchy side, with plenty of pickling. Grains are a major crop, with rye, buckwheat, wheat and barley commonly used in cooking, especially for bread. Root vegetables like beetroot, potatoes, and onions are also popular ingredients along with mushrooms, sour cream, cabbage, and the ricotta-like “farmers’ cheese”. Classic Russian dishes include Beef Stroganoff, chicken Kiev, beetroot broth, blini, and cheese dumplings.

They prepare a variety of soups, which are almost always served with sour cream. Most famous is borscht, made from beets, cabbage, and meat. In the summer, borscht is served cold. Shchi, also made with cabbage, includes turnips, carrots, onions, and beef. Fish soups are popular, such as solianka, and include onion, tomato, cucumber, lemon, butter, and sometimes beef. Many soups also include potatoes or dumplings. Traditional dark Russian bread is made from rye and Russian meals are accompanied by vodka.

Beef Stroganov or Stroganoff (Russian spelling: бефстроганов befstróganov) is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana (sour cream). Following its origin in mid-19th-century Russia, the dish has become popular around the world, with considerable variation from the original recipe.

Elena Molokhovets’s classic Russian cookbook, A Gift to Young Housewives, gives the first known recipe for Govjadina po-strogonovski, s gorchitseju, “Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard”, in its 1871 edition. The recipe involves lightly floured beef cubes (not strips) sautéed, sauced with prepared mustard and broth, and finished with a small amount of sour cream: no onions, no mushrooms, and no alcohol. Another recipe, this one from 1909, adds onions and tomato sauce and serves it with crisp potatoes, which are considered the traditional side dish for beef Stroganoff in Russia. The version given in the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique includes beef strips, and onions, with either mustard or tomato paste as an option.

After the fall of Tsarist Russia, the recipe was popularly served in the hotels and restaurants of China before the start of World War II. Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as US servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, brought several variants of the dish to the United States, which may account for its popularity during the 1950s.

The version often prepared in the United States consists of strips of beef filet with a mushroom, onion, and sour cream sauce served over noodles. In the UK and Australia, a recipe very similar to that commonly found in the United States is popular, but it is served over rice.

Make a Russian inspired dinner at home.

Beef Stroganoff

Serves 4 (or servings for 2 in parenthesis)

Ingredients

1 (1/2) pound filet mignon or mignon tips (cut into 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide)
3 ( 1 1/2) tablespoons butter
1 ( 1/2) sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 ( 1/4) cup beef broth
1 (1/2) tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 ( 2 T) cup heavy cream
1/2 ( 1/4) cup sour cream
2 ( 1 ) teaspoons flour
2 (1) tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 (1) tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly grounded black pepper
8 ( 4) ounces medium egg noodles, cooked

Directions

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat and sear meat on all sides, for about a minute. Work in small batches so the meat does not give off any liquid. Remove to a plate.
Add the butter and onions and saute until tender.
Blend broth, flour, mustard, heavy cream, and sour cream together. Lower heat, add the liquid mixture, and simmer, without boiling until sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Return meat to the sauce and heat, without boiling until meat is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in dill and parsley and spoon over noodles.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Ingredients

2 pounds parsnips
1 pound carrots
2 large shallots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the carrots, and parsnips into 2-inch sticks. Cut the shallots into 1/2 inch pieces

Place the cut vegetables on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, tossing occasionally until the parsnips and carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot.


Mushroom Bisque

Ingredients

2 pounds mushrooms (button/cremini), roughly chopped
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts homemade or store-bought beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning blend, recipe below
3 tablespoons butter
5-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Homemade Croutons, recipe below

Directions

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add in the minced garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the chopped mushrooms and the thyme Cook until the mushrooms release some of the water content, stirring frequently about 10 minutes.

Next, add the beef broth, all-purpose seasoning blend, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cook this mixture for an additional 15 minutes then reduce the heat to low. Remove the thyme sprigs. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat over low. Serve with croutons.

All-Purpose No-Salt Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/4 teaspoons dried savory
1 1/4 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Mix garlic powder, basil, parsley, savory, thyme, mace, onion powder, black pepper, sage, and cayenne pepper in a bowl; store in a sealed jar.

Homemade Croutons

ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch salt
6 slices day-old bread, cubed

Directions

In an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan, combine the butter, oil, and seasonings. Heat in a 300° F oven until butter is melted. Remove from the oven; stir to combine.


Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Cool. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Ham Salad

Ingredients

3 cups finely diced leftover baked ham
2 hard-boiled eggs finely chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper or cayenne pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream and Dijon in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined. Cover and chill until serving time.

Serve on a salad plate over shredded lettuce or on a sandwich made with pumpernickel bread.



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