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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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.

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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.


As of January 2018, the largest population of French American people live in the state of Maine. French Americans also live in Louisiana where the largest French-speaking population in the U.S. is found in St. Martin Parish. Country-wide, there are about 10.4 million U.S. residents that declare French ancestry or French Canadian descent, and about 1.32 million speak French at home as of the 2010 census. An additional 750,000 U.S. residents speak a French-based creole language.

Maine Farmers

Creole Musicians

While Americans of French descent make up a substantial percentage of the American population, French Americans are less visible than other similarly sized ethnic groups. This is due in part to a tendency of French American groups to identify more closely with “New World” regional identities such as Acadian, Brayon, Cajun, or Louisiana Creole. Unlike other immigrants who came to the United States from other countries, some French Americans arrived prior to the founding of the United States. In many parts of the country, like the Midwest and Louisiana, they were the founders of some of the villages and cities and were often the state’s first inhabitants.

New Orleans French Quarter

French immigrants introduced a wide range of interesting foods to America. For example, French Americans made the first yeast bread and brought technical farming skills that vastly improved American rice and wine. Huguenots grew and prepared the first okra, artichokes, and tomatoes. The popularity of French cuisine took off in the 1780s, following the alliance between France and the United States during the American Revolution. Many respected French chefs, such as Arthur Goussé in Los Angeles, immigrated to the United States and established restaurants. A number of French culinary terms remain prominent in modern times, including bouillon, purée, fricassée, mayonnaise, pâté, hors d’oeuvres, bisque, filet, sauté, casserole, au gratin, and à la mode.

Extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes form the basis of Provencal cuisine. This trio appears in sauces, soups, and salads, and as companions for dozens of fish, pasta and meat courses. The combo is often enhanced with fresh herbs, including parsley, oregano, fennel, basil and rosemary, as well as black Nicoise olives, capers, shallots or leeks. The stew below is classic French cuisine where beef and vegetables are simmered in red wine.

Slow-Cooked Provençal Beef Stew

Serve the stew with homemade biscuits.

Bouquet Garni
2 scallion tops (about 6 inches long)
1 bay leaf
1 medium celery stalk
2 sprigs fresh parsley, with stems
3 sprigs fresh thyme
One 2-inch-long strip orange peel

Stew
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 ounces bacon
2 pounds beef stew meat, such as chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 large, red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 pound mixed mushrooms (I used portabella and cremini), halved if small, quartered if large
1/2 bottle (375 ml) full-bodied red wine, such as Burgundy or Pinot Noir
2 cups of water
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated zest of 1/2 orange

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250°F.

To assemble the bouquet garni: Place one scallion top on the counter. Top with bay leaf, celery stalk, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and orange peel. Place the second scallion leaf on top and tie the bundle together in four spots with kitchen string. Set aside.

To prepare the stew: Place the bacon in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until barely brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. When cool break into small pieces.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add half the beef cubes (do not crowd the pot) and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Repeat with the second batch of meat, salt, and pepper.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onions are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the beef.

Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside.

Pour wine and water into the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Return the browned beef, the carrot mixture and the reserved bacon to the pot. Press down on the beef and vegetables, making sure to submerge them completely in the liquid; if necessary, add just enough hot water to make sure they are covered. Place the bouquet garni on top.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pot and press it directly on top of the stew, covering it completely. Transfer the stew to the oven and cook, with the lid off, until the beef is tender enough to cut with a fork, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check every hour to be sure the ingredients stay submerged in liquid during the entire cooking time. If too much wine evaporates, add a little hot water to make up for the loss. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in the reserved mushrooms.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Combine chopped parsley and orange zest in a small bowl and scatter on top of the stew just before serving.


I recently watched an episode of The Kitchen on the Food Network where they prepared Reverse Seared Ribeye. The technique seemed to make sense so I decided to give it a try.
While this method does take longer to prepare than just grilling the steak, the outcome ensures the meat is cooked to your likeness. The steaks also tasted very good.

Reverse Seared Ribeye Steaks

Ingredients

Two 1 inch thick bone-in ribeye steaks, at room temperature
Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
Season all sides of the rib-eyes liberally with salt and pepper. Place on a wire rack-lined baking sheet. Bake until the desired internal temperature is reached, 105 degrees F for rare, 115 for medium rare and 125 for medium, 45-60 minutes. When the ribeyes come out of the oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil while preheating the skillet.


Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then sear the steaks on the first side for about a minute. Turn the steaks over and add the butter to the skillet. Once the butter has melted, continue to cook the steaks, continuously basting with the melted butter, until seared on the second side, about 30 seconds. Sear the fat cap on the sides of the steaks 30 seconds more.


Place the steaks on a serving platter and spoon the pan juices over the steaks, Slice the meat and serve.

Creamed Spinach

Save 1 cup of the creamed spinach for stuffed chicken breasts. Recipe next week.

Ingredients

Two 10 ounces frozen spinach
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Defrost frozen spinach overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave until warmed through, usually about 6-7 minutes.
Heat a saucepan on the stove to medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the spinach and let some of the water evaporate. Season the spinach with salt and pepper to taste and mix together.


Add cream cheese and stir together until cream cheese is melted.
Add sour cream and mix together. Turn the heat to low. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until the creamed spinach thickens. Serve immediately.

Homemade Onion Rings

Cornflakes and a hot sheet pan are the secrets to the crispness of these onion rings.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, sliced crosswise and broken into rings (discard small center rings)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a food processor, pulse the cornflakes and breadcrumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl.
In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
Dip onion rings in egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in cornflake mixture; place on a large plate.
Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil.
Arrange onion rings on the baking sheet. Bake, turning once until onion rings are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.

Sautéed Mushroom Caps With Herbs

Servings: 2 as a side dish

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb cremini mushroom
1 clove garlic grated
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

Directions

Remove the mushroom stems and save for another use. In a skillet over medium heat, add butter and oil. Once the oil is hot, add mushrooms in a single layer, cut-side-down. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper. Saute until bottoms are browned (4-5 min), then turn them over and cook until browned on the second side.
Add the lemon juice and herbs. Stir mushrooms and cook another 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve.


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

Spiedino Di Mare (Skewered Seafood)

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Italian Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

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

Directions

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


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



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