Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pork

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How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.

Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.

Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.

If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.

Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.

Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.

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Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.

Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.

You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.

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Sautéed Peas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.

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Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

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Apple Rosemary Tart

Ingredients

One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.

Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.

Dot the apples with the butter.

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Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.

Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.

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The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.  The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.

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The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.

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Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.

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The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.

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L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.

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The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.

Abruzzo Food Map

Abruzzo Food Map

The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.

Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.

Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.

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Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.

The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.

Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.

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Prosciutto and Fichi

The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.

Ingredients

Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..

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Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.

Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.

Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.

 

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Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Directions

Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.

Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.

Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.

Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.

Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.

Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.

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Dolci: Pizzelle

Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.

Makes about 36 pizzelle

Ingredients

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions

Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

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salernocanaloneOften overshadowed by its proximity to Naples and by the beauty of the Amalfi coast, Salerno is often overlooked. The province has a Mediterranean climate, with a hot and relatively dry summer (30 °C (86 °F) in August) and a rainy fall and winter (8 °C (46 °F) in January). The strong winds that come from the mountains toward the Gulf of Salerno make the area very windy but also one of the sunniest areas in Italy.

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The province is one of the largest in Italy and the Port of Salerno is one of the most active on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It handles about 10 million tons of cargo per year.

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Today, Salerno is an important cultural center and is divided into three zones: the medieval sector, the 19th century sector and the more densely populated post-war area, with its numerous apartment complexes.

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Salerno is located at the geographical center of a triangle nicknamed the “Tourist Triangle of the 3 P” (namely a triangle touching the corners of the towns of Pompei, Paestum and Positano). The characteristics of this area make Salerno attractive to tourists.

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Some of these sites include:

  • Lungomare Trieste (Trieste Seafront Promenade). This promenade was created from the sea during the 1950s and it is one of the best in Italy, similar to those in the French Riviera.
  • Castello di Arechi is a massive castle created by Arechis II during the Roman-Byzantine era.. Today, it houses rooms for exhibitions and meetings. The Castle offers a spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno.
  • Centro storico di Salerno. The “Historical Downtown of Salerno” is believed to be one of the best maintained in the Italian peninsula. Its Merchant Street is one of the main shopping streets in the city.
  • Giardino della Minerva, “Minerva’s Garden,” was the first European “orto botanico” (botanical garden).

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Salerno’s cuisine is rich in vegetables, legumes, olive oil, cheese and fish which are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. The star of Salerno’s cuisine is without any doubt the Campana DOP Buffalo Mozzarella and their San Marzano Tomatoes that are exported around the world. Some other culinary specialties include the White Fig, the Giffoni Hazelnut and the Amalfi Coast Lemon.

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Fruity Tomato Sauce (Pummarola) Salerno Style

Makes approximately 2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups (28 ounces) canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice. (D.O.P San Marzanos are preferred.)
  • 4 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 medium celery stalk, including leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Small handful of chopped fresh basil
  • Scant ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly milled black or white pepper

Directions

Drain the tomatoes in a colander, reserving their juice; chop and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and sauté the vegetables until they are completely soft, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s coppery-colored, about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and their juice, cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally and gently, until thickened about 45 minutes.

Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and blend in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more to taste.

Note:

If a smooth sauce is desired, take the pan off the stove and allow it to cool somewhat. Position a food mill over a clean saucepan and pass the sauce through it, being sure to press out as much of the pulp as possible. Place over medium heat just long enough to heat through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

The sauce can be made 4 to 5 days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Whether storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer, leave out the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir it into the sauce after reheating.

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Linguine or Spaghetti with Anchovies

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 400g linguine or spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 tablespoons olive oil
  • 60g pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 small red chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 60g fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

Add the linguine to a large pan of boiling salted water and boil until al dente.

Heat half of the olive oil in a pan, add the olives, chilies, capers and anchovies and heat, stirring to dissolve the anchovies.

Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss with the sauce.

At the same time, heat the rest of the olive oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the breadcrumbs until slightly brown.

Mix the dressed pasta into the breadcrumbs.

Fry for a few minutes, until a crust forms underneath. Invert onto a warm plate, so the crushed side is on top.

Cut into portions with a knife and serve.

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Saddle of Pork with Milk and Giffoni Hazelnut

Ingredients

  • 1 kg saddle of pork
  • ½ liter of warm milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 100 gr of chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of potato starch
  • Sage and rosemary
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • Olive oil and salt as needed

Directions

Brown the onion with some sage and rosemary in warm olive oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides; add the wine and let the pork steam in it for a few minutes.

Then add the warm milk and let it cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the potato starch, stirring until thickened; then mix in the hazelnuts. Let the meat cool.

Slice the pork and place it into a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the meat and warm it into preheated moderate oven for 5 minutes. Serve it warm with mashed potatoes as a side dish.

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Lemon Gelato

Ingredients

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/ 7/8 cup) lemon juice
  • 350 ml (generous 12 1/4 fl oz/ 1 1/2 cups) milk
  • 150 ml (5 1/4 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) single cream
  • 170 g (6 oz/ 7/8 cup) sugar

Directions

Bring the milk almost to a boil, then add the sugar and, off the heat, stir it until it dissolves.

Pour in the cream and lemon juice. Place the pan in a bowl of ice and, when the mixture is cold, transfer it to the ice cream maker. Follow directions for your ice cream maker.

Pour into a freezer container and freeze overnight. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.

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This month the market offers lots of festive ingredients in anticipation of the coming holidays. I find it is a great time to perk up your winter dishes with lots of fruit flavors. This week I picked up fennel and apples to enhance some pork cutlets and oranges to give swordfish a new look. Carrots make a great side dish and there are so many recipes you can make with hearty greens. Cranberries add a beautiful red color to breakfast cake that could easily be served on Christmas morning. Check the list above and try something new this week.

Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Orange Sauce

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Swordfish is a cornerstone food throughout the Mediterranean and swordfish is not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound swordfish or tuna fillets
Salt
¼ cup flour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
Black pepper

Directions

Cut the swordfish into 2 inch cubes. Salt the fish well and dust the cubes in flour. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the swordfish chunks in one layer. Sear them well on at least two sides. Give the first side 1-2 minutes, then sear other sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute each.

When the swordfish is cooked, remove it to a bowl and reserve. Add the garlic slices and sauté 30 seconds or so — the second it begins to brown, add the orange juice, zest, parsley, nuts and paprika. Toss to combine and cook 1 minute, then add the swordfish back to the pan, toss to combine and cook another 30 seconds or so. Serve at once.

Crispy Pork Cutlets with Fennel Apple Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes. Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sautéed Carrots

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2 servings

Ingredients

3 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Directions

Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the carrots, 2 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.

Cranberry Orange Breakfast Cake

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Topping

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake

2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands form the mixture into crumbs.,

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium mixing bowl, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment or on medium-low speed with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.

Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture. On low-speed (for either mixer), mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth. 

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Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Cake can be served warm. Dust with powdered sugar for a pretty presentation.

Spinach and Cheese Pie

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried dill
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 lb. frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Melted butter or butter cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in lemon zest, dill and feta cheese into spinach mixture. Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg in a small bowl. Stir until well blended. Add to the spinach mixture. Add salt, pepper and stir well.

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Working quickly so that phyllo doesn’t dry out, line the baking pan with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter after you place it in the pan. Fan the sheets out towards the edge of the pan, making sure the bottom is covered. Allow excess to hang over the sides. Spoon filling into pan. Drape remaining layers of phyllo over filling, one at a time, brushing each with butter. Brush top with butter, then neatly fold overhanging phyllo over the top, and brush with remaining butter. Bake until golden, about 1 hour. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.



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I have been making spaghetti sauce this way for many, many years. It is my standard, perfected for my family, from the way my grandmother and mother make spaghetti sauce.

I have made variations of the recipe numerous times but always come back to this for an authentic Italian American sauce, especially when my children visit. This is what they expect.

This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce with lots of meat. You will have enough leftovers to freeze for at least two more meals.

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Meatball Ingredients

(I use a combination of fresh bread and dried breadcrumbs to keep the mixture moist.)

  • 2 slices sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 1 pound ground lean pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning.
  • ½ cup dried plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Sauce Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 large basil sprig
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Four 28-ounce containers Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs spicy Italian sausage

Pasta

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

Directions

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To make the meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil spray.

In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, gently mix the ground meats with the soaked bread, onion, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic, salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning.

Add enough dried bread crumbs to just hold the mixture together, about ½ cup. Add the fresh parsley.

Form the meat mixture into golf ball–size meatballs and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes or until brown all over, turning them over halfway through the baking time.

To make the sauce:

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sausage and brown on all sides; then remove to a plate.

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Add the remaining oil and saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic and stir for a minute or two.

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Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste can with water and add to the sauce pot. Stir and let cook for a few minutes until dissolved.

Add the crushed red pepper, tomatoes and the herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 25 minutes.

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Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer the browned meatballs and sausage to the tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 3-4 hours.

To make the pasta:

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

Pour in 2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup of cheese. Toss until the pasta is well coated, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasta to large shallow bowls.

Spoon the meatballs, sausage and some of the remaining tomato sauce over the spaghetti. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and serve.

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leftovers-ck-0505-article-x

One of the best ways to cut back on wasted food is to use it in a new recipe before it goes bad. You will notice in the recipes below that I cooked several dinners in the past few weeks and, of course, we had leftovers. I don’t mind meatloaf reheated once or twice, but not more than that. Certainly, I can freeze meatloaf but there are more interesting things I can do with it, as well as leftover pork and chicken. Do you have a leftover recipe makeover?

Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Wine Sauce

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Becomes Pork Stroganoff

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped leftover Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce (see recipe link here)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz wide noodles

Directions

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and place the noodles on a medium serving platter.

Heat the leftover pork in a small skillet over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the sour cream.

Pour the meat mixture over the noodles. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Italian Style Meatloaf

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Becomes Meatloaf Panini

Serve these sandwiches with oven baked onion rings, pickles and a salad for dinner.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 slices leftover Italian Style Meatloaf (see recipe link here)
  • 2 tablespoons spicy Italian peppers, chopped
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Layer 2 of the bread slices in the following way: a slice of cheese, a slice of meatloaf, 1 tablespoon of chopped peppers and a slice of cheese. on top of the each meatloaf slice.

Top with the remaining bread. Brush the bread with olive oil.

Warm up a large skillet over medium heat or heat a Panini maker. Place both sandwiches, oiled side down, in skillet or on the Panini press. Oil the bread on the top.

Close the Panini press and follow the directions for your machine.

If using a skillet, cook the sandwich for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

Turn the sandwiches over and press down firmly with a spatula on the top of the bread to compress the sandwiches. Cook until golden brown.

Grilled Chicken Breasts

(See recipe here)

Becomes Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Small Batch Chicken Broth

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Being a frugal Italian cook, nothing gets wasted in my kitchen. The chicken breasts I grilled last week were large, so we did not eat all the chicken. I removed the chicken that was left from the bones and reserved it for the Caesar Salad recipe. I also find that some recipes call for a small amount of chicken broth. The breast bones that were left can solve that need.

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Small Batch Chicken Broth

Ingredients

  • 2 leftover chicken breast bones
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • Celery top
  • Small carrot
  • Small garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Few peppercorns

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover the ingredients with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.

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Strain the broth and pour into half cup containers. Freeze for future use.

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Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • Leftover chicken cut into cubes
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine the anchovy paste, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a small bowl and stir together.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.

Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Add shaved Parmesan and fresh black pepper. Toss and serve.

 


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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.



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