Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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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.


june

This is the season of abundance. Now cherries, apricots, plums, summer squash, watermelon and tomatoes, etc.,  start showing up at the markets – and they’re not being shipped here, unripe, from Mexico, Guatemala or Chile. This is truly the hallmark of the beginning of the season of abundance. There is so much to choose from, you have to stop yourself from buying more than you can use in a week. I try to incorporate as many of these vegetables and herbs into my recipes to get full benefit from them. I also freeze some produce for the winter, when these items are not available.

Macaroni Salad

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I don’t like a lot of mayonnaise in my salads, but feel free to add additional mayonnaise if ½ cup is not enough for you. Use seasonal vegetables in the salad whenever possible.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup spicy cherry peppers, diced or pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch black pepper

Directions

Make the dressing by combining the ingredients and set aside while you cook the macaroni. Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water, drain and add the dressing while the pasta is warm.

Add the chopped vegetables and mix well. Add salt to taste, but I find this type of salad doesn’t need salt. The mayonnaise, pasta cooked in salted water and seasonings add enough.

Chill the salad for several hours before serving.

Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken

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The marinade used for this chicken recipe makes the chicken really delicious.

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 pound chicken, wing tips removed

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh herbs ( I used oregano, basil, sage, parsley, rosemary, chives and thyme because that is what is growing in my garden.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

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Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl or measuring cup.

Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the chicken backbone; remove the backbone (Save it for broth).

Turn the chicken, breast side up, and press down firmly on the breast bone to crack and flatten it. Tuck the wings under the back.

Transfer the flattened chicken to a medium glass baking dish. Loosen the skin a little and rub the marinade under and over all the skin of the chicken.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.

Heat an outdoor grill to high with all the burners on, then, turn one or two burners to the lowest setting to create a low heat area.

Grill the chicken, skin side down over the hot side of the grill, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and move to the low heat side of the grill.

Cover and grill over low heat until cooked through, about 20 – 30 minutes. Internal temperature should be around 170 F.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Internal temperature should rise to 180 F. Carve the chicken and serve.

Big Batch Basil Pesto

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Pesto freezes well. I don’t add Parmesan cheese to basil pesto until I am ready to serve it.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash basil well and drain in a colander.

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In the bowl of a processor, place the garlic, salt, pepper and walnuts. Process until ground. Add the basil leaves and return the top with the spout removed.

While the machine is running slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a refrigerator container or into freezer containers.

Drizzle a layer of olive oil on the top of the pesto to keep it from turning dark.

Green Beans and Potatoes with Pesto

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes,  cut into thick slices
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Basil Pesto, recipe above
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Add the green beans to the potatoes in the steamer and continue to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Drain

Transfer the vegetables to a large serving bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pesto, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Stir to coat evenly.

Leftover Grilled Chicken Salad Plate

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • Leftover grilled chicken, sliced (see recipe above)

Any combination seasonal vegetables, such as :

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cooked corn on the cob, shucked
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Sliced bell pepper
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Cooked green beans
  • Slices of ripe cantaloupe melon
  • 3 cups fresh lettuce
  • Homemade Ranch Dressing, (see recipe here)

Directions

Line a serving platter with the lettuce. Arrange the chicken slices and vegetables over the lettuce in an attractive pattern. Drizzle with the Ranch dressing before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Topping

  • 2 1/2 cups cappuccino chips or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • Chocolate sprinkles for garnish, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a  9″ x 13″ pan cake pan with cooking spray and lightly dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Squeeze the shredded zucchini dry in a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, butter and oil until well blended and light.

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Add the egg and continue beating. Beat in vanilla, buttermilk and applesauce.

Stir in the flour-cocoa mixture. Fold in the grated zucchini and mini chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the  prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

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To make the topping:

Heat the chips and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Pour into a  bowl and chill.

When ready to frost the cake, whisk the topping and spread on top of the cake. Add the chocolates sprinkles, if using.

Store the cake in the refrigerator.

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Now that summer is here in my part of the world, the swimming pool is in full swing. I know that it is probably not summer hot in May where you live, but here is it about 85-86 degrees every day. The 90s will be here next month. This time of year, I like to invite friends over for swimming and either lunch or a BBQ supper. Lunch is a good idea because it can be served easily poolside and most of the food preparation can be done in advance. Seasonal soups are always a big hit with my friends. I usually like to prepare a sandwich or a salad that complements the soup. Here are some of my ideas for lunch that you can make for your family or for guests.

Corn Chowder

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the vegetable broth, chili powder and the thyme. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender. Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Serve in individual soup bowls with any or all of the garnishes.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

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For each sandwich

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Place the eggplant on the bottom half of a ciabatta roll. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and the roll top.

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Wrap the sandwich in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake the sandwich for 15 minutes or until hot and the cheese has melted.

Cut the sandwich in two and serve with Tuscan peppers and olives.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 6 oz can  tomato paste
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Combine the  first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in salt and pepper and the cream. Return the pot to low heat and warm the soup. Do not boil.

Serve in individual soup bowls with basil for a garnish.

Shrimp Pie

IMG_0022

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated or frozen deep dish pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay (seafood) seasoning
  • ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1⁄2 cups grated cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese
  • Hot sauce, a few dashes

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie pan coated with cooking spray and flute the edges. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Cook the shallots in the butter for 1-2 minutes over moderate heat until tender, but not browned.

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Add the shrimp and stir gently for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the seafood seasoning.

Add the wine, raise the heat and boil for a minute. Allow to cool slightly. Stir in the roasted red peppers.

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Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the cream, tomato paste and hot sauce. Gradually fold in the cooled shrimp mixture.

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Spread 1 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the pie crust.

Pour the shrimp mixture into the pastry shell and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

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Bake in the upper third of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pie has puffed and browned on the top.

Cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

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Grilled Lamb Chops

For the steak seasoning, I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you like.

For 2

Ingredients

  • 4 loin lamb chops, 1 ½ lbs and 1 ½ inches thick, fat trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • 2 lemon quarters

IMG_0004 (1)

Directions

In a zip-lock bag combine the lamb chops, oil, lemon juice and steak seasoning. Close the bag and mix well. Refrigerate the lamb chops overnight.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat and oil the grill rack. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Transfer the lamb chops to the grill. Cook 5 minutes,; turn and cook 5 minutes. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon quarters.

If making the potatoes on the grill leave continue to cook them while the lamb chops rest.

Grilled Potatoes

IMG_0003 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Boil the potatoes in water for 6 minutes, until slightly cooked but firm in the center. Drain potatoes in a colander. Dry on paper towel.

Place the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and mix well.

Place a piece of heavy-duty foil on the opposite side of the grill from the lamb chops. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the foil. Cook for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking..

Cucumber Tomato Salad

IMG_0002 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled if bitter, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Place the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber.  Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers and dry them with paper towels

Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. Refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, dress the salad with some of the ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, chopped herbs, onion powder, paprika, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Mix until well combined then cover and place into a refrigerator for at least 30 before serving so the flavors have time to mingle.

Swordfish and Zucchini Kebabs  

IMG_0008 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

Swordfish

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, 1 inch thick (about 12 oz)
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Black pepper

Kebabs

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed
  • 10 squares of red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 skewers

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper, scatter garlic over the fish and pour olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

IMG_0006 (1)

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1 inch pieces. I had 10. Remove 2 red onion rings from a large onion. Cut each ring into 5 –  one inch pieces.

Remove the garlic from the fish and cut the fish into 10 – one inch pieces.

Tread 2 skewers, alternating fish, zucchini and onion. Pour the dripping from the fish marinade over the skewers.

Heat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Place the skewers on the grill and close the cover. Lower the heat to medium. Cook about 12 minutes until the fish is cooked through, turning the skewers halfway through the cooking time. Serve the kebabs over spaghetti.

 A New Way To Cook Pasta

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Angel Hair Pasta 

I have read several articles about cooking pasta in a skillet with less water. I made a full pound of spaghetti for this recipe to test this non-traditional procedure for cooking pasta. The leftovers will not be wasted. It worked very well. The pasta cooked quickly and was perfectly cooked. You do have to stir it often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is definitely an energy and time saver, without loss of flavor.

IMG_0357

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 16 oz thin spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Place pasta in a dry 12 inch skillet (if pasta is very long, such as spaghetti, break the stands in half). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups cold water.

Place over high heat and cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep pasta submerged, until pasta is almost al dente, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.

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Tilt the pan and spoon off the liquid that pools at the edge of the pan into a bowl, so that very little is left in pan. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta.

Return just enough cooking liquid to the pasta, tossing them with the spaghetti. Serve with the swordfish kebabs.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

IMG_0012 (1)

Use this sauce for the meatballs and eggplant recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft over medium to low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute; be careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid.

Cook for 25 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

Neapolitan Meatballs

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I call these Neapolitan meatballs because this is how my grandmother made them. She grew up in northern Campania before moving to America.

Makes 16 meatballs

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 thick slices firm, hardy white bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add the bread to a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk. Add the onion and garlic, stir and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bread mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough.

Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces and shape them into meatballs.

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You can brown the meatballs in a skillet in olive oil until brown. Or, you can put them on a foil lined baking pan and bake in a 350 F oven for about 25-30 minutes until brown.

Place the meatballs in a medium-large sauce pan or skillet and cover with some the homemade marinara sauce. Simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan

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This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

IMG_0016 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
  • ¼ of a small red onion, cut into rings

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.



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