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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olive Oil

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Ingredients

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
Salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 medium roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice

Directions

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Lemon Syrup

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Cake

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
Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

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.

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The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.

The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.

Olive Trees

The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.

 

For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,

THE NEW MEDITERRANEAN DIET COOKBOOK: A DELICIOUS ALTERNATIVE FOR LIFELONG HEALTH

Nancy advises:

Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.

Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.

Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.

Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.

Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.

Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.

 

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin

Directions

Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.

Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.

Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.

Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.

All-Purpose Dressing

Ingredients

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.

Tapenade

Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.

Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.

Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).

Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper

Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.

Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.

Sautéed Greens

Ingredients

3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Directions

Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.

Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.

Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.


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Tonight’s dinner is swordfish on the grill. I live in an area where grilling is an option all year round and many readers who live in the north can still grill through most of the fall. If an outdoor grill is not an option, certainly an indoor one would work well for swordfish. Meaty type fish, like swordfish and tuna, take well to grilling.

The recipe I use for swordfish is an old Italian style recipe for cooking fish over a fire and lots of flavor is added by marinating and topping the grilled fish with a fresh tasting sauce. I like to make the cooking easy by placing the fish on a sheet of heavy-duty foil. This prevents the fish from falling apart and protects the topping I like to add.

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Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Sauce

For 2 servings (recipe is easily doubled and tripled)

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, at Least 1/2 inch thick and about 10 oz
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Lemon Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, scatter garlic over the fish and pour the olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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When ready to grill:

Remove the garlic from the fish.

Place a sheet of heavy foil on a baking sheet and poke a few holes in the foil.

Combine the panko crumbs and Italian seasoning.

Place the swordfish on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press half the panko crumbs onto the fish. Turn the fish over and press on the remaining panko.

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Heat an outdoor grill to high. Slide the foil with the fish still on it onto the grill grates. Lower heat to medium.

Cook about 8-10 minutes until the crumbs begin to brown the and the fish is cooked through. Do not turn fish. Remove the fish to a serving plate and pour the lemon sauce over fish.

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Lemon Sauce

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

Whisk thoroughly. If made ahead, warm in the microwave when ready to serve.

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Roasted Potato Wedges

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half in thirds lengthwise. You’ll have 6 long wedges from each potato.

Place the potatoes in a baking pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano. With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together, making sure the potatoes are covered with oil.

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Spread the potatoes in a single layer with 1 cut-side down.

Bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes, turning to the other cut side after 20 minutes. Bake until they are lightly browned, crisp outside, and tender inside. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

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Romano Green Beans Sautéed with Tomato

During the summer, when these Italian beans are plentiful, I froze several pounds to use later in the year.

Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups Romano beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Half a large fresh tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Rinse the beans under cold running water. Drain, leaving any water clinging to the beans. Trim the ends and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.

Once the oil is hot, add the beans, garlic, shallots, oregano leaves, salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently until the beans are tender but retain some crispness, about 10 to 12 minutes.  

Remove the pan from heat and let the beans cool slightly. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and tomato. Allow the dish to cool to room temperature.



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Looking forward to fall? One of the nice things about early fall is that the weather is still warm but not too hot and there are plenty of fruits and vegetables to choose from at the markets. This dinner menu I planned for you takes advantage of the season’s delicious offerings, like mushrooms, squash, spinach. pears and pork. This dinner serves four but can easily be doubled for a company dinner.

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Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce

Pork

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup porcini dried mushrooms
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wine Sauce

  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Porcini broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

Combine the porcini and boiling water in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onion is soft.

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Add the garlic and fresh mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Strain the porcini in a fine mesh colander and reserve the drained mushroom water. Add the porcini to the skillet with the fresh mushrooms.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano and thyme. Set aside.

Butterfly the pork, by cutting the pork down the center, without completely cutting through, so when the two halves are opened they resemble a butterfly.

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Use a meat mallet to flatten the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the mushroom filling down the center of the pork and bring the 2 sides up. Use butcher string to tie around the roll at 1 inch intervals.

Season the stuffed pork with salt and pepper and in the same ovenproof skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Sear the pork on all sides and place the skillet in the preheated oven.

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Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes or until done to your preference.

Remove the skillet from the oven and place the pork on a platter.

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Place the skillet back on the stovetop. Add the red wine and the strained porcini water and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until it is reduced by half.

Remove the pan from the from the heat and stir in the butter.

Cut the strings off the pork and slice into thin rounds. Arrange the pork on a serving platter and pour the wine sauce over the slices.

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Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

Cook the squash a few hours earlier, so it will be cool enough to handle.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Panko  breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the squash on top.

Bake for one hour or until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.

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Cut in half lengthwise and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and place in a bowl.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and breadcrumbs.

When the breadcrumbs begin to sizzle and turn crisp, stir in the squash strands and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Toss all together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the breadcrumbs, garlic and oil and heated through, about 5 minutes.

Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

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Sautéed Spinach and Garlic

Ingredients

  • Two 10 oz packages of fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve immediately.

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Pear Turnovers

4 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of frozen prepared puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped peeled pears (about 3 medium pears)
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine the honey, cornstarch, ginger and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir in the chopped pears.

Roll the pastry into a 12 inch square on a floured board. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal squares. 

Spoon 1/3 cup of the pear mixture into the center of each square and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold diagonally in half and press the edges with a fork  to seal.

With a wide spatula, place the turnovers on a parchment covered baking pan. Brush the turnovers with beaten egg.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the turnovers are puffy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


new-potatoes

I oven roasted 1 lb of small new potatoes last week. I used half of the potatoes as a side for dinner and saved the remainder to make a potato salad for another meal. See the recipe below.

I also sautéed one pound of green beans (they are in season here where I live) and served half with the potatoes for dinner and saved half for a green bean salad later in the week. I prefer to saute green beans rather than boil them and the recipe is below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a heavy large baking dish. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the herbs, garlic and oil together until blended and then pour over the potatoes.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the potatoes, spacing them evenly apart, in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, for about 45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green beans and seasonings. cover the pan.

Simmer the beans, turning occasionally until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Serve half for dinner and refrigerate the remaining beans for the salad recipe below.

seasonalchicken2

Oven Fried Chicken

4 servings

This chicken tastes even better cold the next day.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and add the garlic. Set aside to cool.

On a sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, panko crumbs, paprika and salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the meted butter and then press the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared pan.

seasonalchicken1

Drizzle any remaining butter over the chicken. (Chicken can be prepared in advance of cooking and refrigerated until cooking time.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crispy, brown and cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

Potato Salad

seasonal potatosalad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ lb leftover oven roasted new potatoes (about 8), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Directions

Combine all the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until dinner time.

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Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Half a pound of sautéed green beans, chilled
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the mustard, vinegar and olive oil in a serving bowl. Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Add the green beans and cherry tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

 


seasonalmarchStarting with this post, I will include posts each week about cooking with seasonal and local (if possible) ingredients.

When buying produce in season, you are not only getting fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavor, you are also getting the best price! Try incorporating a few of the “in season” produce items in your market into your weekly menu. Below is a dinner we had last week that made use of what is in season where I live: asparagus and tuna. February and March are good months for catching tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. I also made this tuna steak work for two meals. Earlier in the week, I grilled a tuna steak and we ate about 2/3 of the tuna steak and I saved 1/3 to make the tuna cakes in the recipe below. Asparagus are at their peak right now and prices are quite reasonable, so they are on our dinner table each week.

seasonaltuna

Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and trim the woody stems from the asparagus spears. Place them in a baking dish large enough so that they lay in a single layer. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spread them back into a single layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Tuna Cakes

Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side, if desired. Recipe below.

tunafilet

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 oz cooked (leftover grilled) tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

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Shred the tuna into a medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients, except the Panko crumbs and oil and mix very well.

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Sprinkle a coating of Panko crumbs on a sheet of wax paper. Divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.

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Press the panko crumbs into the tuna cakes as you form the patties. Refrigerate the tuna cakes for a few hours before cooking. They will hold together better during cooking.

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Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties to the pan and, cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

 Light Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.


Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

Gardens of Palazzo Vicentini.

The Province of Rieti  is located in the northeast section of the Lazio region in the heart of Italy and was established in 1927. The territory is mostly mountainous and there are two artificial lakes created during the Fascist period. There are several protected areas in the province. To the south lies the Parco regionale naturale dei Monti Lucretili and to the southeast is the Riserva regionale Montagne della Duchessa. Between the two areas is the Riserva naturale Monte Navegna e Monte Cervia. These areas support a diversity of wildlife, particularly birds such as herons and grebes. Numerous castles, fortresses and Franciscan sanctuaries can be found throughout the Rieti Province.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Mount Terminillo in summer.

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

Remains of the Roman Bridge (3rd century BC)

During the Roman Empire the province was a strategic point in the early Italian road network, that was known as the “salt” track and it linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea through the Apennine Mountains. According to Roman tradition, a stone bridge was laid across the Velino river and a large viaduct was built to bring goods from the road directly to the cities. After the fall of the Roman Empire the province suffered destruction by invaders. The area was rebuilt during the 12th century and for a time it was a favorite Papal seat.

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Bell Tower of St. Mary Cathedral

Palazzo Comunale.

Palazzo Comunale.

Feasts and festivals are also among the province’s highlights. A festival dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua has taken place for 600 years in the old town of Rieti, with a procession through the streets. In Antrodoco, the Sagra degli Stracci (Festival of Rags) is an occasion to taste local culinary specialties. The Festa della Madonna della Neve e del Toro Ossequioso (Festival of Our Lady of the Snow and of the Fulsome Bull) is held in Posta, in which a man rides a harnessed bull and brings it before the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where it will be made to kneel three times. The Festa Dolce Primavera (Sweet Spring Festival) in Castel Sant’Angelo is a competition between the 10 municipalities in preparing the most delicious desserts. There are many any are carnival festivities, with floats parading through the towns of Amatrice and Magliano Sabina during the celebrations.

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square

Fontana dei delfini. fountain in Vittorio Emanuele II square

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Farmers’ Market Vegetables

The presence of forests means that local produce includes chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper and white and black truffles. The farms produce fresh, salted or seasoned cheese, such as ricotta made with goat’s milk; the Fiore Molle from Leonessa, flavored with saffron and pecorino from Amatrice. Growing conditions for vegetables is ideal, especially for garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes, olives and grapes. Sausages come from Leonessa and Amatrice and dry sausages are made in the city of Rieti.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Fried pizzas in the Rieti area are usually eaten with cold meats like ham, sausage or pork loin and they are sometimes stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

Amatriciana is one of the best known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine.

La Copeta

La Copeta

Local favorite dishes include stracciatelle in brodo (similar to egg-drop soup); spaghetti all’amatriciana; pollo (chicken) alla diavola; stracci di Antrodoco – thin pancakes filled with meat sauce and cheese; stufatino garofolo and spezzatino di pollo (chicken stews), agnello in guazzetto (lamb stew) and porchetta di Poggio Bustone (pork).
Sweets include: terzetti alla reatina, soft cookies made with honey and nuts; copeta are  made with honey and nuts between layers of bay leaves and pizza di Pasqua (Easter pizza).

A well-known local wine is Colli della Sabina D.O.C. and it is available in white, red and rosé.

rietimushrooms

Bruschetta with Porcini Mushrooms

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 slices ciabatta bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper

Directions

In a hot grill pan, toast the bread on each side; then lightly rub one side with a clove of garlic and drizzle each with olive oil. Set aside.

Slice the mushrooms thickly taking care to keep the stalk and the cap intact.

Smash the garlic cloves with the flat blade of a knife.

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and fry the smashed garlic for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat until they are browned and just cooked. Remove the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bruschetta on warm plates and top with the mushrooms and parsley leaves. Serve immediately.

rietieggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 (1 pound or smaller) round dark purple eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 pound ground veal or pork or beef
  • 3 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a box in the center of each eggplant half, coming about half an inch from the sides and cutting down to within half an inch of the bottom.

Using a large spoon, pry the center free. It should come out fairly easily and use the spoon to scrape any excess eggplant from the inside of the box.

Place the eggplant shells cut side down on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cover the excess eggplant flesh with plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat, cleaning all the eggplants.

Chop the onion and combine it with one-fourth cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the meat to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

Finely dice the reserved eggplant flesh and add it to the skillet and cook until the eggplant has softened completely, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and remove from the heat.

Oil a large baking dish with the remaining olive oil and pour the remaining crushed tomatoes into the dish. Arrange the eggplant halves in the baking dish. They should fit tightly.

Spoon the meat mixture into the eggplant halves, dividing evenly.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil and spoon some of the tomatoes from the bottom of the baking dish over the eggplant.

Re-cover with aluminum foil and bake, spooning the tomato mixture over the eggplants once after another 15-minutes.

After 45 minutes total cooking time, scatter the grated cheese generously over the top of each eggplant. Bake uncovered until the cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

rietipotato

Boiled Potatoes with Celery

Ingredients

  • 2 tender inner celery stalks, sliced diagonally 1/8″ thick
  • 2 lbs boiling potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Oil-cured black olives, for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, add salt and, then, add the celery. Blanch until it is still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.

Remove the celery using a slotted spoon and scatter it on a baking sheet to cool.

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain them and place on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel them using a paring knife. Carefully cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a large bowl, season the warm potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and mix well. Add the parsley and celery and mix well.

Let it sit for an hour. Garnish with the olives and serve at room temperature.

rieticookiess

Roman Honey Sesame Cookies

Makes about 40 small cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature; extra melted butter for dipping the baked cookies
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Directions

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture.  Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease two baking sheets. Form chilled dough into logs and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure not to overcook or they will be dry.

While warm, dip in a bowl of melted butter and then into a bowl of sesame seeds. Cool on a wire rack.

rietimap



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