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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Lettuce

Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880s. Today, it is estimated that nearly 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. Arab Americans are found in every state, but more than two-thirds of them live in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population.

Arab Americans are as diverse as their countries of origin, with unique immigration experiences that have shaped their ethnic identity in the U.S. While the majority of Arab Americans are descended from the first wave of Christian Arab immigrants, Arab American Muslims represent the fastest growing segment of the Arab American community.

Contrary to popular assumptions, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens. While the community traces its roots to every Arab country, the majority of Arab Americans have ancestral ties to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq.

Arabic-speaking immigrants arrived in the United States in three major waves. The first wave between the late 1800s and World War I consisted mainly of immigrants from Greater Syria, an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. Following the breakup of the Empire, the province was partitioned into the separate political entities of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan. The vast majority of immigrants in this wave were members of Christian minorities. Although some writers claim that these immigrants left their native countries for religious or political reasons, the evidence suggests that they were drawn to the United States by economic opportunity. Like many economically motivated immigrants during this period, Arabs came to the US with the intention of earning money and returning home to live out the remainder of their lives in relative prosperity. The major exception to this pattern was a small group of Arab writers, poets, and artists who took up residence in major urban centers such as New York and Boston. The most famous of the group was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet and numerous other works.

Unlike the earlier influx, the second wave included many more Muslims. It also included refugees who had been displaced by the 1948 Palestine War that culminated in the establishment of Israel. This period also witnessed the arrival of many Arabic-speaking professionals and university students who often chose to remain in the United States after completion of their training. Immigrants of the second wave tended to settle where jobs were available. Those with few skills drifted to the established Arab communities in the industrial towns of the East coast and Midwest, while those with professional skills headed to the suburbs around the major industrial cities or to rural towns.

A mural inside the lobby of ACCESS that depicts the story of many Arab-Americans making their way to build a community in Detroit.

In the mid-1960s, the third wave of Arab immigration began which continues to the present. More than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab Americans identified in the 1990 census immigrated after 1964, while 44 percent immigrated between 1975 and 1980. This influx resulted in part from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 which abolished the quota system and its bias against non-European immigration. The third wave included many professionals, entrepreneurs, and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. These immigrants often fled political instability and wars engulfing their home countries. They included Lebanese Shiites from southern Lebanon, Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Iraqis of all political persuasions. But many professionals from these and other countries like Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and unskilled workers from Yemen also emigrated in search of better economic opportunities. Had conditions been more hospitable in their home countries, it is doubtful that many of these immigrants would have left their native countries.

Arab Americans have a distinctive cuisine centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not found in the average American kitchen, such as chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, ground sesame seed oil, feta cheese, dates, and figs. Many Arab dishes, like stuffed zucchini or green peppers and stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, are labor-intensive but delicious and healthy.

Arab Americans are probably most known for their restaurants and cuisines found across the country. Many classic dishes coming from the Arab World have become popular dishes for Americans. The dish most famous, of course, is hummus. This simple puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is served as an appetizer or as a side to grilled meats and vegetables. Sometimes called “street meat” in the U.S., shawarma is another national hit thanks to Arab Americans. Wrapped with garlic and pickles in Arabic bread (pita bread), shawarma has become a great alternative sandwich. Tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, and kebabs are part of the American cuisine today.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
50 large jarred grape leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish)

Directions

Place the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.

Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a medium pot and heat it. Add the minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté for another minute. Pour in ¾ cup of vegetable broth and lower the heat; simmer the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the minced dill, mint, toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot of rice. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the grape leaves by cutting the stems off flush with the leaves. Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves. Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes until they become pliable. Drain, then cover the leaves with cold water. Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.

Place a grape leaf shiny (smooth) side down, vein (bumpy) side up, on a flat surface like a cutting board. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at the base end of the leaf, near where the stem was. Fold the stem end up over the filling. Fold the edges of the leaf inward. Continue rolling the leaf till it forms a neat rolled package. Squeeze the roll gently to seal.

Repeat the process with the remaining leaves until all of the rice filling is used.

Place the stuffed leaves in the bottom of a deep saute pan. Pack the leaves snugly; as this will help keep the leaves intact as they cook. Make a single layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is full, make a second layer on top.

Pour 1 cup of broth, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves. Heat the pan over medium until it begins to simmer (don’t boil, or the leaves will start to fall apart). Cover the pot. Let the grape leaves cook for 30-40 minutes. The leaves are finished cooking when they are fork-tender.

Hummus

Ingredients

3 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ice cubes
1/3 cup (79 grams) tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot water (if needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sumac

Directions

Add chickpeas and minced garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until a smooth. While the processor is running, add the ice cubes, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Blend for about 4 minutes. Check, and if the consistency is still too thick add a little hot water. Blend until the mixture is a silky smooth consistency. Spread in a serving bowl and add a generous drizzle of olive of and a sprinkling of sumac.

 

Kofta

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill
Flatbread or pita, for serving

Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cucumber squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh mint or dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

To make the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the kofta: Mix the beef, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 roughly even balls. Mold each ball around the pointed end of a skewer, making an oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before threading them.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush the pan or grill grates lightly with olive oil. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and cooked through about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki sauce and flatbread.

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush is a salad of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, toasted pita bread, and a sumac dressing. Since I was serving pita with the kofta, I did not include it in my salad.

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

Pita
2 large pitas
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Dressing
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad
1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 English cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced and separated into 1/2 circles
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut pitas in half. Separate the top from the bottom and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl to keep from over browning. Set aside.
To make the dressing. In a small bowl combine the first 6 dressing ingredients (garlic through black pepper); whisk until combined and honey has dissolved. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle pita over the top and serve.

 

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Mexican Americans have lived in the United States for most of the country’s history. Ethnically, Mexican Americans are a diverse population, but the majority are Mestizo, which in colonial times meant to be a person of half European and half Native American ancestry. Nonetheless, the meaning of the word has changed through time and currently refers to the segment of the Mexican population who do not speak indigenous languages.

The United States is home to the second-largest Mexican community in the world, second only to Mexico itself, and comprising more than 24% of the entire Mexican population of the world. Mexican American families of indigenous heritage have been in the country for at least 15,000 years, and Mestizo Mexican American history spans more than 400 years, since the 1598 founding of Spanish New Mexico. Spanish residents of New Spain in the Southwest included New Mexican Hispanos and Pueblo Indians and Genizaros, Tejanos, Californios and Mission Indians. Approximately ten percent of the current Mexican-American population are descended from the early colonial settlers who became U.S. citizens in 1848 following the conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican–American War.

Generally, when Americans speak about Mexican food, they are usually referring to Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex) cooking, an extremely popular cuisine that follows the long border between the United States and Mexico. The food of the southwestern US state of New Mexico and the dishes of many of the Native American peoples of the southwestern US have similar names to many Tex-Mex and some Mexican dishes but they use different flavorings and cooking techniques.

Dishes like chili, fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos are actually homegrown American inventions. Even dishes that exist in Mexico like enchiladas, tacos, and tamales are cooked and served differently in the United States. True Mexican dishes are not as spicy as many US versions. American versions of Mexican entrees add prodigious quantities of cheese, either shredded or melted, to nearly every dish, a practice rare in Mexico. The same heavy hand applies to the American use of sauces of all kinds. North of the border portions are larger, plates are filled so that the food items tend to run one into the other. In Mexico, the soft corn tortilla performs the function that bread on the table performs in the United States; it is a side starch. In the United States, fried tortillas, become an ingredient in nearly every dish.

Like most immigrant groups, Mexican Americans have remained loyal to the food traditions of their homeland. Many shops in small ethnic markets carry Mexican specialty foods. When they cook, they follow recipes handed down to them by their parents and grandparents and their cooking styles have certain things in common. Meat, usually pork or beef, is central to the diet. It is often eaten with salsa on the side. Corn, beans, rice, and root vegetables are also staples, especially sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and taro. Also popular is a pear-shaped squash called chayote. Here are some Mexican American recipes for you to make at home.

Carne Asada

Carne asada means grilled beef in Spanish. The best cuts for making carne asada is Arrachera or skirt steak. It’s the taste that comes to mind when you think carne asada.

In Mexico, there are several marinating techniques that vary depending on the region of the country.
In the south and in the Gulf of Mexico area, where bitter oranges are grown, cooks will add some of its juice to the meat they are using to make Carne Asada; in other regions, they will add lime juice, and others will add a splash of beer.

Carne asada is traditionally made using a skirt or flank steak. The two cuts are very similar, but I prefer flank steak. When cutting the cooked meat, be sure to cut against the grain. It is quite easy to see the grain running through the meat in both of these cuts. It looks like long lines. Do not cut parallel to these lines, always cut perpendicular to them.

 

Carne Asada

Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef

Servings: 6
Ingredients

2 limes juiced
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 pounds flank steak

Directions

In a gallon size resealable bag, combine the lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze the bag to mix it up.
Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squashing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight is better.
Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan over high heat.
Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard the excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.
Once done, remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve.

For Carne Asada Tacos

Thinly sliced grilled flank steak
Sliced tomato
Sliced avocado
Sliced red onion
Shredded lettuce
Cotija cheese, crumbled
6 tortillas
Blood oranges, cut into eighths

Grilled or Roasted Corn On the Cob

Ingredients

4 ears corn
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Chopped herbs (your choice)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F or use the grill when cooking the meat.
Remove husks and silks from the corn. Place the corn on sheets of foil.
Butter corn and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese. Enclose the corn in foil and press the edges to seal.
Place wrapped corn on a cookie sheet or on the grill and roast for 25-30 minutes.

Mexican Red Rice

Arroz Rojo Mexicano
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 ¾ cups unsalted chicken broth or water
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 1 to 2 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and cut a slit down the side of each one
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place the garlic into a blender or food processor, add the canned tomatoes and process to a smooth puree.

In a large saucepan, stir together the oil and rice. When the rice is thoroughly coated, stir in the tomato puree, broth (or water), carrots and 1 teaspoon salt. Nestle in the chiles. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Gently stir the rice, re-cover and let the rice cook about 20 minutes. or until tender Taste a grain of rice: It should be very close to done at the core. If not, sprinkle in a little water, re-cover and cook 5 minutes more.

When the rice is done, uncover it and sprinkle in the peas and the parsley or cilantro. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice, reaching all the way to the edges of the bottom, to release steam and slow the cooking. Re-cover, let stand 5 minutes.

Black Beans with Chiles

Ingredients

1 pound dried black beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 whole serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rinse beans. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover with water by several inches. Let soak overnight.
Place oil, onion, and carrot in a Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onion is tender. Drain beans and add to the Dutch Oven. Add whole chiles, cumin, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 15 minutes more.


Homemade Lasagna

6 servings

Ingredients

Fresh Pasta Noodles
Marinara Sauce
Lasagna Cheese Filling

Fresh Pasta Noodles

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose or Italian (00) flour
2 eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Mix the pasta in a food processor.

Place the eggs and oil in the bowl of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add flour and pulse until the dough just comes together.
The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. If the dough seems dry add a tablespoon or two of water. Pulse a few times and then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.

Use a pasta machine.

Cut the dough into quarters. Roll out one-quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle.

Set the rollers of a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine at their widest opening. Run the dough once through the machine. Remove and lightly dust with flour. Fold the dough in thirds, like a book, pressing down with your fingers, and run through the machine again. Repeat this step at least two more times, dusting lightly with flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Now change the rollers of the pasta machine to the next decreasing setting and roll out the dough once without folding. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the last (thinnest) setting. Repeat with the remaining dough. Keep the rolled out pasta sheets covered with kitchen towels.

For lasagna noodles, cut the pasta strips into 8 pieces that are 4 x 10-inches. This is enough for 4 layers.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 a large onion finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
One 6 oz can tomato paste
6 cups chopped Italian tomatoes

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and seasonings. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir and cook one minute. Fill the tomato paste can with water and pour into the sauce ingredients. Add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a soft boil, lower the heat, partially cover the pan and let the sauce simmer until thickened, about an hour.

Lasagna Cheese Filling

Ingredients

24 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

Directions

Mix all the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil an 11 x 8-inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce. Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

Grilled Italian Sausage

One of my favorite grilling sausages is made by Fortuna”s Sausage & Italian Market called TUSCANO made with provolone, hot peppers, sun-dried tomatoes. See link.

Ingredients

1 ½ lb Italian Rope Sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Brush the sausage with olive oil.

Heat the outdoor grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 15 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry. Cook for 15 minutes more. Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degrees F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through. If not, continue to cook until the temperature is reached.

Note: to cook on a stovetop grill, heat the pan, lower the heat to low and oil the pan. Cook the sausage for about the same time as above or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Italian Romaine Lettuce Salad

Ingredients

1 small head of Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into ring
Italian black olives to taste

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces.
Place the greens, olives, and onion in a medium salad bowl.
In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.

Homemade Italian Country Bread

Ingredients

2 teaspoons SAF (instant) yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add honey. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
Add the 4 cups of flour and salt and mix. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour.

Using the paddle attachment on number 2 speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is soft but supple.

Shape the dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 60 minutes.

Place a sheet of parchment paper in a 9 or 10-inch pan or shallow dish. Turn the dough out onto the parchment pan or dish. Gently shape the dough into a round and cover with greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more.

At the same time put a covered Cloche pan or Dutch Oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Do not grease or spray the Cloche pan or Dutch Oven.

After the dough has risen for 30 minutes and the oven temperature is at 500 degrees F, open the oven and take the lid off the cloche pan.

USE A THICK POTHOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

Transfer the dough while on the parchment to the bottom of the hot cloche pan. Cover with the cloche lid.

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid.

Bake 15 minutes more, or until the bread is crusty and brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bread on a wire cooling rack.


When you cook steak and chicken, make extra. The leftovers easily make quick weeknight meals.

Steak & Bean Tacos

I like to serve this dish with a green mixed salad and ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

Half of a leftover grilled flank steak, sliced thin
Original recipe for the grilled steak
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup medium spicy salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 flour tortillas

Directions

Any leftover steak will work in this recipe, just slice it very thin. Reheat the steak in the microwave or in foil in a moderate oven temperature until warm. Heat the beans and warm the tortillas. Assemble the tacos with beef, beans, salsa, and cheddar cheese.

Greek Salad With Leftover Grilled Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

8 oz leftover grilled chicken that had been marinated in 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 sliced garlic clove, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.
Grilled chicken directions
2 Pita breads, warmed
Greek Salad Ingredients
Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces
Bell peppers, seeded and cut into one-inch squares
Red onions, sliced thin
Cucumbers, peeled and sliced into half moons
Tomatoes, cut into one-inch pieces
Kalamata olives
Pepperoncini
Crumbled Feta cheese
Greek Salad Dressing, recipe below

Directions

I always grill more chicken than I need for dinner because there are so many dishes you can make with the leftovers. Like this one – a family favorite.
Assemble the salad ingredients in individual bowls. (I use pasta bowls.) Mix with some of the dressing. Slice the leftover chicken and place on top of the salad. Serve additional dressing on the side along with the warm pita bread.

Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Pour all the dressing ingredients into a large jar and shake well.
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend the flavors.
Pour the Greek dressing over the salad ingredients as directed above.


Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the table in Italy.
No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.

Parmigiana in Italy is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese, and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.

Below is a classic recipe for chicken that I grew up on and it is still a big favorite in my family.

Chicken Parmigiana

2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Homemade Marinara, see recipe
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 slices of mozzarella cheese
4 oz thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour, and egg in three separate dishes.

First, dredge the chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side.
Top each breast with Marinara, covering each piece, place the skillet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling.

Place two slices of mozzarella on each piece of chicken and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Serve with the cooked spaghetti mixed with the remaining marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce

Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish and olives. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
One 6 oz can tomato paste
Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.
Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.

Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.

Italian Leaf Salad

Ingredients

1 small head of lettuce, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into ring
Italian black olives to taste

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces.
Place the greens, olives, and onion in a medium salad bowl.
In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.

 


Dipping Sauce: To Accompany Wraps

Ingredients

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch granulated garlic

Directions

Mix together and let sit at room temperature for several hours to allow the flavors to combine.

Homemade Egg Rolls

6 rolls

Ingredients

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon honey
6 large wonton wrappers or medium low carb tortillas
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil

Directions

Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sesame oil, ground pork, grated ginger, and garlic.
Brown the ground pork and break it into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the pork is mostly cooked through, stir in the shredded cabbage, bell pepper, green onions, honey, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Cook until the cabbage has softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Lay each wonton or tortilla out on a kitchen towel and scoop 1/6 of the pork filling on one end of each wrap. Brush the edges with egg to seal. Fold the edge of the egg wrap over the filling and fold the sides inward, like a burrito. Roll the wrap, tucking in the edges to fully enclose the filling. Brown on all sides in hot vegetable oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with Chinese mustard or dipping sauce.

Cabbage Pot Stickers

Serves 8

Ingredients

8 outer cabbage leaves from a medium head
1/2 pound lean ground pork
2 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the core off each of the cabbage leaves and add to boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, until the cabbage is soft and tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked cabbage to a plate of paper towels to drain.

Prepare the pot sticker filling by combining the ground pork, chopped green onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ground ginger in a skillet and cook until the pork is brown. Place ⅛ of the filling on each cabbage leal and fold in the sides and then roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling.

Brush the skillet with vegetable oil and place the cabbage rolls in the pan. Cover the pan and cook the rolls over low heat for 5 minutes. Turn the rolls over, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with a dipping sauce.

Lettuce Wraps

4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 pound chicken tenders
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Large lettuce leaves

Directions:

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken tenders and cook until browned on both sides, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Then cut the tender into small pieces.
Mix together the garlic, celery, green onions, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha in the skillet the chicken was cooked in. Cook 2 minutes and then add the chopped chicken. Cook until hot.
To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf and roll up.

Asian Broccoli Salad

Side dish for Asian wraps.

2 servings

Ingredients

Half a head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup Teriyaki sauce
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the ingredients including the uncooked broccoli florets. Toss to combine.
Let sit for several hours at room temperature. Toss again before serving.


These are the dishes my children and grandchildren love. I try to make them when they visit. No one ever seems to tire eating these traditional family favorites.

Neapolitan “Low Carb” Meatballs

Makes 12 large meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Marinara Sauce for cooking the meatballs, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using your hands. combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil cooking spray. Form the meatball mixture into large meatballs. Use a ½ cup measure. You should be able to make 12 large meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the meatballs over. Bake for 15 minutes more. Place the meatballs in the pot of marinara sauce and simmer for one hour.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 oz can tomato paste
Two 26-28 oz containers of Italian finely chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for about 1 ½ hours.

Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

2 lbs Italian pork sausage, one hot; one sweet
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-10 Italian frying peppers, stems and seeds removed; cut into 1-inch rings
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup marinara sauce, recipe above

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill with direct and indirect heat. Place the sausage links on the indirect heat side and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the sausage links over and grill for 15 minutes more. Remove the links to a plate and cool. Cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces.
You may also cook the sausage in the oven or in a frying pan.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the garlic, onions, and peppers. Turn the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 30 minutes. Add the sliced sausage and marinara sauce. Heat over low until hot.

Cheese Ravioli

My favorite frozen ravioli are made by Celentano. They are most like homemade ravioli and for busy times they are perfect.

Ingredients

One family size package cheese ravioli
2 cups Marinara sauce, heated, recipe above
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water according to the package instructions.

Tip
I like to place the package of ravioli in the refrigerator overnight. That way the ravioli do not stick together and you can drop individual ravioli into the boiling water.

Remove the ravioli with a spider utensil and place the ravioli in a serving bowl. With each layer, add sauce and Parmesan cheese. Continue until all the ravioli are in the serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2-3 large eggs
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

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

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

Place the eggs in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

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

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

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

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

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

Directions

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

Italian Romaine Salad

Ingredients

1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into rings

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

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

Leftover Meatballs, Sausage & Peppers and Eggplant make great sandwiches.

 



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