I am fortunate to live near a farm that grows these beautiful, round Italian heirloom eggplants. This variety is a plump, tear-drop- shaped eggplant with rosy lavender skin and alabaster flesh. The meaty and firm yet tender flesh has a delicate mild flavor and a creamy consistency with no bitterness. Rosa Bianca has few seeds, making it the perfect variety for grilling and baking.
Baked Eggplant Stacks
1 Rosa Bianca Eggplant, about 1 ½ lb.
½ cup flour
3 egg whites beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
2 cups Italian seasoned Panko crumbs
1 large beefsteak or heirloom tomato, about 1 lb
6 Fresh Mozzarella slices
6 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour the ¼ cup olive oil into a large rimmed rectangular sheet pan.
Peel the eggplant and slice into six 1/2-inch-thick circles.
Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, then the egg white mixture and finally the crumbs, tossing around to make sure the crumbs adhere. Place the breaded eggplant on a plate and refrigerate for an hour or two.
Put the sheet pan with the oil in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven (with oven mitts) and arrange the eggplant on the hot pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the pieces over and bake another 10 minutes or until they’re golden on the other side.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Put a tomato slice on top of each eggplant slice, then a basil leaf on each and top each with a slice of mozzarella. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese melts.
Tomatoes with Herbed Ricotta
Use beautiful heirloom tomatoes that are in season now along with lots of fresh herbs.
For two servings:
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 scallion, white and green parts, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced\
1 large heirloom tomato, about 1 lb
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
Fleur de sel
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, parsley, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Set aside for up to 30 minutes.
Slice the tomato into ¼ inch thick slices. You should get 4 slices. Place on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let drain for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, place the tomato slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread ¼ of the ricotta mixture over each tomato slice. Sprinkle with reserved basil and fleur de sel, and serve at room temperature.
Old Fashioned Vidalia Onion Pie
Vidalia onions are in season now. They are a sweet, mild onion grown in Georgia. Vidalias can be used in place of any yellow onion, but their flavor is so special that you can really let them be the star of the show, such as this Vidalia Onion tart.
One 9-inch pastry crust:
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water
Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan if you like. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top. Fill and bake.
2 large Vidalia onions, diced
1/4 cup butter
8 oz cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 eggs, beaten well
1 cup whole milk
Saute the onions in butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until golden brown. This will take 40 to 45 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper.
Preheat oven to 350°F Line a baking sheet and place the pastry-lined pie pan on the baking sheet to help with transferring in and out of the oven.
Spread half the cheddar cheese over the bottom crust and top the cheese with the cooked onions.
In a measuring cup, whisk the eggs together with the milk and ½ teaspoon of salt, then pour it over the onion mixture. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
Plums are generally in season somewhere in the United States from the end of May all the way into October. Not only are they good for eating out of hand, but they are an excellent fruit for baking, such as this crostata recipe below. Crostata is the Italian term, and Galette is the French term for a rustic dessert that consists of a rolled out piece of pastry dough and the edges of the dough are folded in about an inch or so over the filling.
Pie pastry for one 9-inch pie
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon cream
2 tablespoons coarse sugar
Slice the plums into thin wedges.
Roll pie dough out to a 12-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan. Spread marmalade on the center of the tart; then fan around the wedges of plums, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the pie crust dough edge over onto the plums.
Drizzle honey over plums, brush pie crust dough edge with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F until fruit is tender and crust is cooked on the underside, about 25 to 30 minutes.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. This series continues with the country of Greece.
Before it became known as a “Blue Zone”—a region of the world where people tend to live unusually long and healthy lives—the island of Ikaria, Greece, was unknown to most Americans. Ikaria is where the majority of the people live to be well into their 90’s.
In the past few years, Ikaria has received considerable attention from scientists and journalists who want to learn the secrets of its long-living residents. Food clearly plays a large role in the Ikarians’ longevity: The Mediterranean diet they follow has been linked to lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and—most recently—heart disease. Although, we, Americans, can’t adopt all aspects of the Greek-island lifestyle, we can incorporate some of the eating patterns and dietary traditions practiced there. And, the best part of “eating like a Greek” is that the food is delicious.
Ikarians regularly dine on potatoes, greens, olives and seasonal vegetables. Vegetables are a big part of every meal and they are prepared in a healthy way—served raw in a salad or roasted with olive oil, rather than fried.
The majority of people in Greece eat a salad as an appetizer before the main course. This way, their appetite is significantly reduced by healthy ingredients.
Shellfish and fish are abundant in their cuisine, all of which tastes great over pasta with lemon and olive oil or in a souvlaki-style flatbread wrap with vegetables. Ikarians also eat smarter snacks—like raw vegetables and protein-rich dips made from Greek yogurt, beans or lentils.
Ikarians typically have a late morning breakfast comprised of goat’s milk, yogurt and or cheese, fruit, herbal tea or coffee, whole grain bread and local honey. At lunch, salads made of beans, legumes and potatoes, along with cooked fresh garden vegetables are standard fare and prepared with generous amounts of olive oil. Locally-caught fish may also be served and Ikarian red wine typically accompanies the meal. Meat is eaten just a few times per month. Ikarians eat a late lunch and it is usually followed by an afternoon nap, a practice that many Ikarians still follow and which results in a restful and stress free rest of the day. Quiet leisurely late afternoons and a heart-healthy routine greatly reduces the risk for heart disease. A light dinner of bread, olives, vegetables and wine is followed by evening visits with neighbors before bedtime.
Ikaria is the Mediterranean Diet in all its aspects, including the ways in which locally produced fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food and community are all integrated in ways that support physical, emotional/ mental health, relationships and the environment.
“Eat Like a Greek”
Greek Lentil Soup
Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas
- 2 large red onions, coarsely chopped, about 2 cups (500 mL)
- Salt, to taste
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 pound (500 g) small brown lentils
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped or pureed tomatoes
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 2 sprigs dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 fresh or dried whole chile pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar
- Raw red or white onion for serving
Coarsely chop one of the onions. Place in a large, heavy pot, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, covered, over very low heat until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir.
Rinse the lentils in a colander. Add the lentils, tomatoes, sage, oregano, bay leaf and chile pepper to the pot, and toss all together for a few minutes over low heat.
Pour in enough water to cover the contents of the pot by 3 inches. Raise heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for one hour, or until very tender.
Season to taste with salt. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar just before serving.
To serve: Remove the bay leaf, oregano and sage leaves and discard. Slice the remaining onion. Sprinkle a few onion slices over the top of each soup portion. Drizzle in additional olive oil and vinegar if desired.
Briam – Baked Vegetables in Olive Oil (Island of Ikaria-Greece)
FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Chef Bill Bradley, R.D.
Briam is an oven baked dish of fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and an optional feta cheese. It is one of the most classic dishes of Greece.
- 2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into large, thick strips
- 4 small or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 3-4 small zucchini, ends cut off and cut into large pieces
- 2 onions, cut in half
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into large pieces
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bunch dill, stems removed and chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup feta, crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large Dutch oven or baking dish, mix together all the ingredients except the feta cheese. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 1 hour and stir. Re-cover and bake for another hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, stir in the feta cheese and serve immediately.
Rosemary and Olive Focaccia
FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Koula Barydakis
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups warm water
- 2/3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
- 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix flour, yeast, oregano, sugar, salt, olive oil and water in a bowl. Knead until the dough is soft (at least 5 minutes).
Cover with a warm, moist towel and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour).
Spread dough on a baking (cookie) tray, pressing lightly so that it is flat and even.
Oil the dough. Make little cavities throughout the top of the dough by pressing down with your fingers.
Place olives and rosemary in the cavities.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Serve hot.
Chicken Salad Greek Style
Recipe and photo from GAEA.
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup bite-sized broccoli ﬂorets
- 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
- 1 orange, segmented
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
Using a rolling pin, glass jar or mallet, pound and ﬂatten the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, sauté the chicken breasts until golden brown, about 1 minute each side.
Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the chicken rest, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli ﬂorets and cook until slightly softened, about 1 minute.
Place the fennel, oranges, cherry tomatoes and avocado to a large salad bowl.
Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken slices to the salad bowl. Drizzle dressing on top and gently toss all of the ingredients together. Serve.
Baked Seafood Orzo with Kalamata Olives
Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas
Orzo is one of the most popular Greek pasta shapes. In Greek, it’s called kritharaki.
- 1 pound orzo
- 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups chopped tomatoes (good quality canned are also fine)
- Pinch of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine, plus one cup if using whole, unshelled mussels
- 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 2 pounds mussels in their shell, or 2 ½ cups shelled, frozen mussels, defrosted
- 2 cups cleaned, shelled small fresh or frozen and defrosted shrimp
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
- 1/2 chop chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350F / 175C.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the orzo and simmer until al dente. It should be a little underdone.
Drain, transfer back to the hot pot and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
While the orzo is boiling start the sauce:
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide pot or deep skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add 3 of the 4 chopped garlic cloves and stir.
Pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add the wine. Simmer until the alcohol has cooked off.
Add 1 cup of hot water, the star anise and hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook the sauce over medium heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the olives to the sauce five minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the seafood:
If using mussels in the shell, make sure they are cleaned and well-washed.
Steam them in two inches of wine in a wide pot with the lid closed, over high heat, until they open.
You can add herbs or garlic if you want to the steaming liquid, before adding the mussels.
Remove and strain in a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pot and add the shrimp and remaining garlic.
If you are using shelled mussels that have been defrosted, drain them and add them to the shrimp.
Stir over medium heat until the shrimp start to turn pink. Remove.
Toss the mussels and shrimp, the reserved steaming liquid, and the pan juices from lightly sautéeing the shrimp into the tomato sauce.
Stir in the oregano and parsley. Remove the star anise.
Oil a large baking dish, preferably ovenproof glass or ceramic. Place the orzo in the baking dish and mix in the sauce thoroughly.
Pour in any remaining olive oil.
Bake, covered, for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the orzo is fully cooked. Remove, cool slightly and serve.
Tahini-Walnut Phyllo Flutes
Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas
- 2 cups tahini
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 to 1 ½ cups water
- 3 cups finely ground walnuts
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
- Greek honey for serving
Whip together the tahini and sugar at high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes.
As you whip the mixture, drizzle in the water. It should end up being the consistency of peanut butter.
Using a wooden spoon or whisk, stir in the cinnamon and walnuts.
Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Lightly oil two sheet pans.
Open the phyllo and place horizontally in front of you.
Cut three stacks of three-inch strips and keep them covered with a kitchen towel and a damp towel on top.
Take the first strip, oil lightly. Place a second strip on top and oil that, too.
Place a tablespoon of the filling on the bottom center of the strip, fold in the sides, and then roll up to form a tight cylinder.
Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.
Bake the flutes for 8 – 12 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool slightly.
To serve: Drizzle with honey.
You can store the cooled pastries in tins in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.
People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, however, Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues outside of the Middle East in Ostia Antica (near Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD) there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout Italy.
There are differences in what is considered Kosher in various Jewish traditions. For example, the Ashkenazim consider rice to be chametz, or leavened, and therefore forbid it, while allowing chocolate, cheese and other dairy products. The Italkim and Sephardim instead allow rice, but consider chocolate and dairy products to be chametz, and thus forbidden.
Jewish cuisine through the centuries influenced modern-day Italian cuisine. Wild radicchio flavored with garlic, herb salads, omelettes, pies made with chard, spinach, leeks, marinated cabbage, turnips, eggplant, artichokes, fava beans, polenta chestnuts and raisins are just some of the ingredients contributed by the Jewish immigrants.
Here are some recipes suitable for Passover with Italian Jewish influences.
Tomato Soup with Rice
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 medium carrot, slice
1 tablespoon olive oil
26 oz container Italian chopped tomatoes (such as Pomi- no salt or sugar added)
8 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onion, celery and carrots in oil until softened but not browned.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining chicken broth and rice. Season with salt, thyme and pepper.
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.
Honey Lemon Artichokes
1 large lemon, cut in quarters, plus the freshly squeezed juice from 2 or 3 lemons to equal 1/2 cup
4 large globe artichokes (12 to 14 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 medium roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice
Fill a very large bowl with cold water; squeeze a few of the lemon quarters into the water, then place them in the bowl.
Rinse the artichokes. Snap off or use kitchen shears to trim all the pointed outer leaves and then slice off the center leaves at the top.
Leave 1 to 2 inches of stem attached to each artichoke; cut off the rest and discard.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove a thin layer from the remaining stems.
Working quickly so the artichokes don’t discolor, use a grapefruit spoon or a melon-ball scoop to remove the choke, or thistle part, in the center of each artichoke, making sure to remove all fibers.
Quickly transfer each trimmed artichoke to the bowl of lemon water.
Once all the artichokes are trimmed, work with them one at a time, cutting them in half and then again, so each artichoke is quartered.
Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
Add the artichokes cut side down, fitting them snugly into the pan.
Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, re-positioning the artichokes in the pan as needed so each one picks up golden color.
Season lightly with salt.
Stir in the lemon juice, honey and water; cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
The liquid should thicken slightly and the artichokes will be tender.
Transfer to a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the artichokes.
Garnish with the parsley and red bell pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Braised Chicken and Eggplant
3 lbs chicken pieces; skinned/fat removed
Salt and pepper; to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion; halved, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1½ lbs eggplant; unpeeled, cubed
½ lb. fresh Roma tomatoes; cored, cubed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and brown the chicken on each side.
Remove the chicken from the skillet to a bowl or platter. Don’t clean the skillet.
Add the onion, garlic and eggplant. Cook the vegetables and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
Add bay leaf and hot pepper flakes. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet. Baste with the sauce.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked. Discard the bay leaf before serving and sprinkle with basil.
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic
2 pounds fingerling or small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash and pat dry the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Toss the potatoes making sure to coat them well with the herbs and oil.
Put them onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, gently moving them around on the pan halfway through cooking.
Serve at once garnished with more fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil.
Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds (4 ounces)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped (2 3/4 ounces)
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
8 large eggs, separated
In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest with 1/2 cup of water.
Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat; let steep.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-by-3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; oil the paper.
Evenly coat the bottom and sides with the matzo meal, tapping out any excess. Refrigerate the pan.
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the granulated sugar, almonds, lemon zest and egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake.
Remove the pan sides and invert the cake onto a wire rack.
Peel off the parchment and let the cake cool to room temperature.
Reheat and strain the syrup. Transfer the cake to a plate and prick all over with a fork.
Pour the syrup evenly over the cake and set aside at room temperature for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake and serve.
February is not quite spring and the market selections still look like winter in most areas of the US, unless you like to buy produce from South America. However, that is not eating what is is season. So still plentiful are winter squashes, celery, leeks, fennel, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, citrus fruit and apples. Since I live in the south, spring vegetables are starting to appear but I try to keep in mind what most readers can find seasonally at this time of the year. Here are some recipes for what you can cook with these seasonal ingredients.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
To make this dish into a main entrée add a 1/2 cup cooked rice or quinoa to the filling ingredients before the second baking. This makes a great side dish for pork chops.
1 large acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil and place the squash halves in the baking dish, cut side down. Place the squash in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and turn the squash halves upright and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Drizzle the maple syrup over the squash and divide the cranberries and pecans equally and fill the squash. Add 1/2 an inch of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil
Return the squash to the oven and bake for 50 minutes more or until tender.
Easy Skillet Potatoes
This side dish goes well with just about everything. I like to make extra because I can use the leftover potatoes in an omelet.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb small new potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the potato slices across the bottom of the skillet.
Cook without stirring for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom. Turn the potatoes over with a wide spatula and spread them out in the skillet.
Sprinkle potato slices with the garlic, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly brown on the bottom.
Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad
This salad is very refreshing, especially in the winter. It has great flavor and we like it served with fish.
2 celery stalks, cut on the bias
Half a cucumber, peeled, sliced into quarters and cut on the bias
Quarter of a red onion, diced
Half a green bell pepper, sliced and cut on the bias
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut on the bias
8-10 Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite Greek or Italian salad dressing
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all the vegetables in a serving bowl and mix. Add the olives, feta cheese and salad dressing; mix well.
Sprinkle the top of the salad with the oregano and refrigerate for several hours or until serving time.
Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet) and the recipe comes from the Venetian-Jewish culinary tradition. Agrodolce is made by using sour and sweet elements, traditionally vinegar and sugar. Sometimes, additional flavorings are added, such as wine, fruit (raisins) or even chocolate.
This dish goes well with grilled meats.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
10-12 oz carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (optional)
Cut the carrots in half crosswise, then slice into lengthwise sticks, stack the carrots on top of each other and finely slice into matchsticks or shred on the large holes of a grater.
Place the carrots, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the honey and mix. Add the vinegar, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir until there is a glaze coating the carrots, about 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, if desired. Place in a serving dish and serve at room temperature.
Sautéed Fennel and Leek
This side dish goes well with oven roasted chicken, grilled fish or sausage.
If you want a heartier side dish, add one peeled baking potato, sliced thin, to the fennel in the skillet and cook along with the fennel before adding the remaining ingredients.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, top removed cored and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large leek, tough greens removed cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter
Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add the fennel (and potato slices if using), cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add leeks and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes more.
Stir in lemon zest and butter; adjust seasonings and serve.
Snacks for game watching or parties are fun to have on hand. They do not have to be unhealthy to taste really good. My kind of snacks have always been a big hit with family and guests – so give them a try. I have never heard that they didn’t go over well. In fact, I get many requests for the recipes. The sports season begins this week, so get ready.
Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be seasoned, roasted in the oven and eaten as a healthy snack. They’re a very good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants; and they’re also a good source of protein, zinc, copper and iron. Besides – they taste good.
Make a double batch – they go fast.
- 2 cups raw, dry pumpkin seeds (be sure they are not salted)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the seeds with the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and honey in a mixing bowl.
Spread the seeds on a baking pan.
Roast the coated seeds until golden, about 15 – 20 minutes. Scrape the pan and stir the seeds as they cool to prevent sticking. After about 10 minutes cooling on the pan, the seeds will stick together.
They are easy to separate and will finish cooling without sticking after they are separated.
Remove to a serving bowl or store in an airtight container.
Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus
Pimentón is the Spanish version of paprika that adds a little smokiness to a recipe. It comes in three types with varying levels of heat. Dulce is slightly sweet with very little heat, agridulce has only a trace of sweetness but a lot of heat and picante is quite hot with just a trace of bitterness.
This is not the typical hummus made with tahini (sesame paste). This hummus uses sun-dried tomatoes and has delicious flavor from the Pimentón. The dip go very well with the homemade pita chips.
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained but reserve the bean liquid
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, more to taste
- 1 tablespoon pimentón agridulce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pita chips (recipe below) and raw vegetables, for serving.
Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid separately.
Put the chickpeas and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and process until chunky.
Add salt, pepper, the garlic and pimentón and process; then add the sun-dried tomatoes and sun dried tomato oil. Process until very smooth.
Add some of the reserved bean liquid to thin the sauce to dipping consistency.
Serve with homemade pita chips and cut up vegetables.
Homemade Pita Chips
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.
- 1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
- Olive oil
- Za’atar seasoning
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.
Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix. Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.
Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large ziplock bag until needed.
Small hand foods are popular and easy to eat while you are watching a game. These can be filled with anything you like and cut as small as you like. Here are some suggestions.
- Whole-grain tortillas, lavash bread or lettuce leaves
- Drizzle of oil and vinegar
Protein Filling Ingredients
- Thinly sliced roast turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef
- Nut Butters
Vegetable Filling Ingredients
- Greens: lettuce, baby spinach, kale, Swiss chard
- Zucchini Slices
- Pickled Cucumbers, Peppers or other Pickled Vegetables
- Light Mayonnaise
- Greek Yogurt
- Mashed Avocado
Choose a type of wrap or use a variety. Choose a spread and cover the wrap on one side.
Layer the wrap with a protein and veggies of choice. Drizzle with a little oil and vinegar. Roll-up tightly and place on a serving dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until game time.
Pepper and Corn Salsa
The fresh flavors of this seasonal salsa is what makes it taste so good. Homemade chips make it taste even better.
- 3 bell peppers, seeded and diced (use a variety of colors)
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked
- 1 tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- Juice of half a lime
- Pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper Flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Homemade tortilla chips
Place the diced vegetables and corn to a medium serving bowl.
Add the lime juice, salt, pepper and cayenne to the bowl. Mix well. Let the flavors combine for at least twenty minutes before serving.
Serve either at room temperature or slightly chilled with tortilla chips.
Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Olive oil
- One package (8-10) large (12 inch) flour tortillas
- Taco seasoning mix, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two rimmed baking sheets.
Brush the tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle each with taco seasoning. Cut the tortillas into 8 triangles and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Taco Seasoning Mix
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
In a small bowl, mix all together. Store in an airtight container.
Belluno is a province in the Veneto region of Italy and is almost entirely occupied by mountain areas. The climate is among the most severe in the Alps. The Belluno area is representative of a typical alpine environment and a people who are proud of their traditions passed down from generation to generation through experience and oral narrative.
Belluno is one of the most important industrial sectors of northern Italy. The production of eyeglasses (Luxottica), home appliances (Zanussi and others) and bathroom fixtures (Ceramica Dolomite, Ideal Standard) are major industries.
Luxottica Group S.p.A., an Italian company, is the world’s largest eye wear company and is a designer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer of eye wear. Leonardo Del Vecchio and two financial partners launched Luxottica in Agordo, Italy in 1961.
Luxottica is the owner of Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. Luxottica produces more than 130,000 eyeglass frames each day from six factory sites.
The cultivation of beans in the Lamon highlands and the production of Piave cheese in the Dolomites are important to Belluno’s economy. Large scale dairy cattle breeding in Belluno, began centuries ago by small mountain owners and valley sharecroppers. In more recent times, the Belluno area, like many other mountain areas in Italy, was hit with a serious economic crisis. In order to deal with the socio-economic downfall, a local parish priest, suggested a new form of joint management and the first social cooperative dairy was organized.
Piave is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, that is named after the Piave river. As Piave has a Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Piave is produced in the Dolomites area in the province of Belluno.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese, offered at 5 different ages:
Piave Fresco (20 to 60 days aging – blue label)
Piave Mezzano (61 to 180 days aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio (more than 6 months aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro (more than 12 months aging – red label)
Piave Vecchio Riserva (more than 18 months aging – black label).
Piave cheese has a dense texture, without holes, and is straw-yellow in hue. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Once fully aged, it becomes hard enough for grating and it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor.
Piave’s rind is impressed repeatedly in a vertical direction with the name of the cheese. Piave is sold throughout Europe and even in the US as a hard cheese. Its taste resembles that of a young Parmigiano Reggiano. The red label is aged at least 1 year and is called Vecchio (Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro), while the blue label is softer.
Piave Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” slices
- 3/4 cup | 175 mL panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon | 15 mL fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup | 150 mL Piave cheese, finely grated
- 1/4 cup | 60 mL olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each | 5 mL each fresh herbs like sage, basil and parsley, finely chopped
Place tomato slices on paper towels to drain. In a medium bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage and Piave Cheese; stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Equally sprinkle breadcrumb mixture onto each tomato; drizzle with olive oil and place under broiler.
Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs and serve.
Makes 2 rounds
- 1 pound Pizza Dough, divided in half
- 6 ounces Piave cheese, shaved, divided in half
- 12 very thin slices lemon, seeds removed, divided in half
- 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons small sprigs fresh rosemary, divided in half
- Freshly ground pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven (remove racks) or the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour.
Stretch half the dough into a large round on a wooden pizza peel.
Arrange half the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half the lemon and onion slices. Sprinkle with half the rosemary and season with pepper. Drizzle with oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Align the edge of the peel with the edge of the stone. Tilt the peel, jerking it gently to move pizza onto the stone. When the edge of the pizza touches the stone, quickly pull back the peel to transfer the pizza to the stone. (Do not move the pizza once it is on the stone.)
Broil until bubbles begin to form in the crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using the broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove the pizza from the oven with the peel. Repeat with the second pizza. Slice and serve.
Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus
- ½ cup | 125 mL heavy cream
- 1 cup | 250 mL chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon | 5 mL lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon | 10 mL lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL Piave Cheese, shredded
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2” lengths
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cups | 500 mL orzo | rice shaped pasta
- ¼ cup | 50 mL Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional shredded Piave cheese for garnishing
In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream, chicken or vegetable broth to a slow boil. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and Piave cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add orzo and cook for approximately 5 minutes; add asparagus and fresh peas (add frozen peas the last two minutes of cooking), continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender – approximately 4 additional minutes.
Drain pasta and vegetables and return to pasta pot; stir in cream cheese sauce and parsley. Garnish with additional Piave cheese and serve.
Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey
- Wedge of Piave cheese
- 4 large figs
- Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cut the cheese in half and slice off the rind on both sides. Cut into 12-15 thin triangle slices.
Cut the top of the figs off and then into quarters. Place the Piave slices on a plate with the figs.
Sprinkle the cheese and figs with cracked pepper. Then, drizzle with honey – about a teaspoon on each fig – and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using.
Serve on individual plates with a dessert fork and knife.