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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

This is one of our favorite pasta dishes. Yes, I use canned clams in broth instead of whole clams. I think this version, that I have fiddled with over the years, is now just the way we like it. Lots and lots of flavor. Be sure to cook the spaghetti al dente. A great bread and salad round out a delicious meal.

Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cans of minced clams with liquid (do not drain)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 large cloves of thinly sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
10 oz spaghetti

Directions

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning.

Turn the heat to low and let the ingredients cook slowly for a few minutes to infuse the oil. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the clams with their liquid,stir and simmer for 4 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta and parsley to the saute pan and mix thoroughly. Cook until the pasta is hot. Serve immediately in pasta bowls.

Greek Salad

4 servings

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano or Greek seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:

4 cups Romaine lettuce, broken into bite sized pieces
1 cup cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup sliced deli pepper rings
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Directions

For the dressing

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

For the salad

Place the onions, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and olives over the lettuce in a salad bowl.

Crumble the feta cheese over all.

Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve in individual bowls.

Herb and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with herbs, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Leftovers can be reheated in a toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.

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Trying to get back in shape after the holidays or just wanting to eat more healthy foods in the new year, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice eating some of your favorites – especially Italian – a high carb cuisine. I have a few suggestions on how to make your recipes lower in carbs and gluten-free.

Change the coating on your food to a low carb.
Bake your food in the oven instead of frying.
Substitute low carb vegetables for high carb vegetables.
Make your own sauces, so you can control the ingredients, especially sugar.

Low Carb Coatings For Meat And Fish

“Panko” Style Coating
Toast several slices of low carb (or gluten-free) bread. Cut the bread into smaller pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until coarse crumbs form. Add spices according to the type of food you are making and use to bread your ingredients.

Almond Flour Coating
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup finely ground almond flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Combine all the ingredients in a shallow bowl and use in place of breadcrumbs.

Whey Protein Powder (unflavored) – what you use to make smoothies.
Pure whey protein powder is a dairy product and is completely gluten-free. However, commercially sold whey powders vary widely in what they contain, and some varieties do contain traces of gluten. So check the ingredient list.
Use in place of flour when you need a flour coating. Add spices, salt and pepper.

Dinner Menu:

  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Roasted Spaghetti Squash
  • Balsamic Mushrooms and Spinach

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

1 whole spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the skin of the squash with warm water and dry with a towel. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp, thin knife.

Rub the skin with olive oil and place in a shallow baking dish lined with heavy-duty foil.

Bake for about 60 minutes until you can pierce the skin and flesh underneath easily with a paring knife. Let cool for a few minutes before you cut into it.

Turn the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the chicken and place it in the oven.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds in the middle with a big spoon and discard.

Then, using a fork scrape out the flesh. It will look like spaghetti strands. Place a serving on each dish and season with salt and pepper.

Healthy Parmesan Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breast cutlets
1 1/2 cups homemade marinara sauce, warmed
1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (egg whites) or 1 egg beaten with a little water
1/4 cup unflavored whey protein powder
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Breadcrumb Coating
1/2 cup low carb “panko” style breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions

The oven should be heated to 400 degrees F. Oil an 8″x 8″ glass baking pan.

Pound chicken breasts gently between sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet to even out their thickness.

Combine the breadcrumb coating ingredients in a shallow dish

Add salt and pepper to the protein powder and lightly coat the chicken with it.

Next, dip the cutlets in the egg substitute and then in breadcrumb mixture, coating them well.

Place the breaded cutlets in the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes. Top each cutlet with sauce and then shredded mozzarella.

Bake for another 10 minutes until the chicken is 160 degrees F when checked with a meat thermometer and the cheese is melted.

Place a cutlet with sauce on top of the spaghetti squash.

Balsamic Mushrooms and Spinach

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
10 ounces clean fresh spinach, roughly chopped or frozen and defrosted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and mushrooms in the oil, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the spinach, and cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the vinegar. Serve hot.


I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.


I have been fascinated by the spiralizer vegetable craze. So I bought an inexpensive spiralizer to try my hand at making zucchini noodles to see what all the fuss is about. I read the tips that came with the gadget and watched a video, so I would get it right. This little spiralizer did an excellent job and I had no difficulty operating it.

Some tips I picked up:

Spiralizers work best with straight vegetables, so you may have to trim them or cut them in half.

In order to get long spirals, the vegetable should be at least an inch and a half in diameter.

After washing the produce cut one end off and keep one end uncut to use to grip the vegetable.

Zucchini is a watery vegetable. After you spiralize the zucchini, dry them off with a paper towel. I made the spirals in the morning and let them sit on a double thickness of paper towels until it was time to cook. They were nice and dry and could be cooked al dente.

I gave some thought to what would work well for a topping over zucchini noodles and decided on an Alfredo sauce with shrimp. You could also use chicken. This is a whole new food world to explore.

Shrimp Alfredo Over Zucchini Noodles

For 2-3 servings

Alfredo Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Chopped parsley for a garnish

Shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
1 pound large shrimp (16-20) peeled, deveined, no tails
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Zucchini Noodles
3 medium zucchini, about 7 inches long and about 2 inches wide
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Cut the base end off the zucchini and use the other end to hold while the zucchini turns in the gadget. Place the zoodles on a double thick layer of paper towels to dry.

Alfredo Sauce
In a medium saucepan melt the butter then add the grated garlic and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.

Add all of the other ingredients except for the Parmesan cheese and  parsley.

Whisk vigorously until the cream cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

Add the Parmesan cheese and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until it is melted and just starts to thicken.

Stir often until smooth, then remove from the heat, covered, until the shrimp are cooked.

Zucchini Noodles
In a large skillet, heat the butter and then add the zucchini noodles, Toss for 2-3 minutes.

Taste the noodles to determine consistency – should be “al dente”.

Place the zoodles on a platter and pour one small scoop of Alfredo sauce over them and set aside.

Shrimp
In same skillet that the zucchini was cooked in, melt the butter and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.

Sauté for 2 minutes until fragrant.

Salt and pepper the shrimp and then add them to the garlic butter and cook for 2 minutes on each side.

Add a small scoop of sauce to the pan and swirl the shrimp in the sauce. Pour over the zoodles on the platter.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and extra Parmesan. Pour the extra sauce into a small serving dish and serve alongside the platter.

A tomato salad was a nice side for this dish.

 


 

To make really good tasting chicken soup, you need a rich tasting broth. I usually start with the remains of a whole 4 lb chicken that I have either cooked on the grill or in the oven. Remove as much meat as you can, reserve 2-3 cups for the soup and use the remainder of the chicken meat for other dishes. To make the broth even richer, roast the chicken bones in the oven.

Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Spread the bones in a large roasting pan and place the pan in the oven on the lower rack and roast the bones until deeply brown, 45-60 minutes. Transfer the bones to a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Spoon the fat from the juices in the roasting pan and discard. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When browned bits begin to sizzle, pour in 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the pot with the roasted bones.

Add the following:

2 scrubbed carrots, cut in half
1 onion quartered or 1 bunch of scallions
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf

Directions

Add these ingredients to the stockpot with the roasted bones and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Remove and discard the large bones and vegetable pieces. Strain the stock in a fine mesh colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the souppot.

You can add more seasoning later depending on how you will use the stock. You now have a clear, flavorful stock to make some great soups.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 medium poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup celery, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
1 cup sweet onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
14 oz container chopped tomatoes, no sugar or salt added
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups okra, trimmed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
Toasted tortilla strips (see recipe below) and cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions

Roast the poblano peppers over a grill or under the broiler. Cool and remove the skin. Chop and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and add the garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper.

Cook over low heat until tender.

Add the chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir well. Add the chicken broth and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans,okra, plum tomatoes and diced poblano peppers.

Lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked chicken and heat.

Serve with toasted tortilla strips and cheddar cheese as a topping for the soup.

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into thin strips; place in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake about 6 minutes or until crisp but not brown; cool and use to add to the soup.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 cup homemade chicken broth, recipe above
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup cooked noodles, optional
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot.

Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add cooked noodles, if using and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

½ yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups chicken broth, recipe above
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup diced, cooked spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, the drained cannellini beans and the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the sausage, salt and escarole.

Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the cooked tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


Growing up in an Italian American family, every Sunday meant pasta was on the menu. My grandmother and mother could come up with an infinite amount of pasta recipes to keep us from getting bored. The smells were incredible. It is easy to keep the tradition alive, if you can keep the process simple. Which is what I have done with my Sunday dinner recipe for pasta. I hope you enjoy it.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 (26-oz) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

Pasta

1 lb spaghetti twists or other short pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and remove to a plate to cool. Then cut into ¼ inch slices.

Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes to the skillet, stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, sliced sausage and salt and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.

For the pasta:

Cook the pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well salted boiling water, uncovered, until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the sausage sauce. Cook for a minute.

Pour pasta into a large serving bowl, dollop with tablespoons of the warmed ricotta with and serve with the grated cheese.

Notes:

The sauce can be made ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered, up to 5 days or frozen in an airtight container for 2 months.

You can also turn this dish into a baked pasta casserole:

Add 8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese to the ricotta.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add 1 cup of the sausage sauce and toss to coat with the pasta.

Spoon the pasta into an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta-mozzarella mixture on top.

Gently fold some of the ricotta mixture into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should still have pockets of ricotta.

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.

Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Italian Garden Salad

Ingredients

1 head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup Italian Olives

Italian Salad Dressing

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons seasoning mix

Directions

For the salad dressing:

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mix in a small jar.

In a mixing bowl whisk the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Combine the green salad ingredients together in a salad bowl Add some of the dressing and mix well.

Taste the salad to see if if needs more dressing or salt and pepper. Reserve any leftover seasoning mix and dressing for another salad.

Sourdough Ciabatta

2 large loaves

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour

Directions

Mix the yeast with the flour.

In an electric mixer bowl combine the milk, olive oil and salt with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a dough the consistency of drop-cookie batter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces.

Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place each loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a serrated knife, make three slashes in the tops of the loaves, each 1/2-inch deep.

Cover with a damp towel.

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately 30 minutes. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.


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 in the countries of Portugal, Spain and France. This series continues with the country of Italy.

The Mediterranean Diet is more than just a way of eating. It is a way of thinking about food. It embraces the concept of eating together and sharing food with others. Modern populations are pressed for time, so food is often prepared and consumed in a hurry and in isolation. However, for the Mediterranean peoples, preparing food and eating together is very important and it is an important key in why the Mediterranean Diet is successful. For Italians, food is not simply sustenance and nutrition. It is community.

The Italian cuisine is typically Mediterranean which means eating a lot of vegetables, fruit, grains, fish and some chicken. In addition, the Italians use olive oil for cooking in large amounts instead of animal fat. Olive oil combined with a high volume of vegetables prevents disease. The Italians also follow nature and only eat what is in season. If you eat according to the seasons, you will be eating a variation of different colored vegetables. Each different color has a different antioxidant, which helps prevent disease, including cancer.

There are big differences between the Italian food in the North and in the South. Italy’s Alpine and sub-alpine regions in the North produce more livestock (cows) and fewer olives. That means more butter and lard and less olive oil. Corn (maize) and rice (such as arborio) are more popular in the northern regions than pasta. In the inland cities (Milan, Turin, Bologna), fish is more expensive than it is in the coastal cities (Genoa, Venice), and therefore consumed in lesser quantities. Fish and fresh fruit cost much less in Naples and Palermo than they do in Turin and Milan.

Southern Italians eat 40% more fruit and 80% more grains than Northern Europeans do. Southern Italians eat approximately 490 grams (17 ounces) of pasta and bread a day and research studies have found that eating a lot of grains was clearly NOT harmful to the Italians. The next largest proportion of their fiber comes from tomatoes, onions, artichokes eggplants, peas, lentils and chickpeas.

The Typical Italian Daily Menu:

Breakfast: Yogurt topped with berries and walnuts, coffee or tea
Lunch: Lentil soup with Swiss chard and bread on the side
Snack: cheese, bread
Dinner: Roasted cod paired with a wheat berry salad (cooked wheat berries with olive oil vinaigrette, feta, parsley, and tomatoes) and a glass of red wine
Dessert: Fresh fruit drizzled with honey

The Typical Italian Diet:

Snacks: In Italy, snacks are usually a very light: an espresso, a pizzetta, cheese and fresh fruit are popular options.

Lunch: In Italy lunch is usually a single dish, either pasta, frittata, fish with vegetables or salad.

Dinner: A soup with fish and vegetables is typical for a first course, followed by pasta with meat or fish and salad or vegetables. Fruit is usual for dessert.

Bring the Italian Mediterranean to your table with these recipes:

Saffron Orzo Pasta Salad

TN&M Magazine

Ingredients

  • 10 oz Orzo pasta
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
  • One 8 oz can Italian chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, under oil, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil.

In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of saffron and 2 tablespoons of the hot chicken stock and stir to dissolve.

Add the saffron to the chicken stock and stir.

Add the orzo to the boiling chicken stock and let it cook for 7 minutes.

Drain the orzo, transfer to a bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.

Dice red bell pepper, red onion and mozzarella; set aside.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into 1/2-inch piece and set aside.

Slice the olives and drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.

In a medium bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Add the diced onion to the vinaigrette and let it marinate for 5 minutes.

Transfer all of the ingredients into the orzo and mix well, add the vinaigrette and toss well to coat.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley just before serving.

Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use.

Warm Farro Salad

From TN&M Magazine

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dried chickpeas
  • 10 ounces farro
  • Truffle oil to taste
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • 1 Tomato chopped fine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili flakes
  • Parsley

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 hours, changing the water 3 times. (If you use canned chickpeas, rinse them thoroughly!)

Cook the chickpeas in water to cover for about 1 hour.

Cook the farro in lightly salted water until tender.

Finely chop the garlic, basil, sage, rosemary, chili flakes and oregano.

Lightly sauté the herbs in olive oil, then add the tomato.

Add the drained chickpeas and farro, drizzling with a bit of broth.

Off the flame, stir in truffle oil to taste.

Courgettes with Sultanas and Pine Nuts

From TN&M Magazine

Serves one, as a main course.

Ingredients

  • 1 210g tin of sardines, drained, oil reserved
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas (raisins)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1.5 courgettes (zucchini), julienned
  • ½ tablespoon chopped chives
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • Black pepper to serve

Direction

Tip a little of the oil drained from the sardines into a frying pan and sauté the garlic for a few minutes until softened.

Add the julienned courgettes to another pan, and sauté over low heat in a little of the sardine oil until softened – approximately 4 minutes.

Add the sardines to the garlic pan, and break them up with the back of your wooden spoon as you stir them around the pan. Next add the sultanas, pine nuts and capers and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until the sardines are warmed through.

When the courgettes are ready add them to the saucepan and toss all the ingredients together, distributing the sauce evenly through the courgettes. Scatter in the chives, lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a little extra salt if necessary, but likely not as the capers are salty.

Transfer to a serving dish and add liberal amounts of black pepper.

White Fish Fillets With Cherry Tomatoes

By Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Four 6-ounce white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil

Directions

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Combine the shallot, garlic, tomatoes, olives and oil in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside.

Place the fish in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the tomato mixture over the fish and broil until fish is opaque throughout and tomatoes have started to burst, 10–13 minutes. Serve with basil scattered over top.

Spaghetti With Clams

by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 pounds clams
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced, divided
  • 3 small dried chiles, crumbled, divided
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Place clams in a sink filled with cold water. Scrub shells well with a coarse brush to remove any sand. Drain water and soak clams in clean water, repeating until the water remains clean.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, and 1 chile. Add half of the clams, cover, and cook over high heat, shaking pan frequently, until clams open (keep lid on pot so heat is not released, making cooking time longer).

As soon as the clams open, transfer the clams and their juices to a large bowl (discard any clams that do not open). Repeat the process with 2 tablespoons oil, remaining ¼ cup wine, 1 garlic clove, 1 chile, and remaining clams.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but al dente; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in pot with lid over medium heat. Add remaining 1 garlic clove and remaining 1 chile; stir until garlic is fragrant and light golden, 1–2 minutes. Return clams and their juices to the pot; toss to coat and remove from the heat.

Add pasta and toss to coat evenly with juices, adding pasta cooking liquid by ¼-cupfuls if pasta is dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over and serve.



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