Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Salad

img_0015No reservations needed for this dinner! Sometimes it is just nice to have a special dinner with your partner in your own home. I try to have this special kind of evening every once in a while. Come up with a menu that is elegant but easy to make and the evening will be memorable. The salad and main dish recipes below are easy and come together quickly. The dessert takes a bit longer but eclairs and cream puffs are not difficult to make. You can certainly make anything you like for dessert, as long as it is special to you. Keep romance alive.

Blue Cheese and Dried Cranberry Tossed Salad

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Ingredients

1 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 of a cucumber, sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Dressing

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

For the dressing: Whisk vinegar and honey in a small bowl until blended. Whisking continuously, slowly add oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer the romaine lettuce with the cucumber, onion, almonds, cranberries and bleu cheese on two individual salad plates. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.

Filet Mignon with Leek Sauce

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Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Filet Mignon steaks, about 7 oz each and 2 inches thick
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, finely chopped white and light green sections of the leek
1/4 cup red wine (such as Cabernet)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the grill or broiler. Lightly oil the grill rack or broiler pan. Rub the steaks with the salt, then press the pepper into both sides of the steaks.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the leeks for 6 minutes, or until very soft. Add the wine, capers and tarragon.

Simmer for 3 minutes, or until well blended and heated through. Keep warm.

Grill or broil the steaks about 5-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 135°F for medium-rare. Place the steaks on individual serving plates.

Top with the leek sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Mash the potatoes, adding the buttermilk until moist. Add the chives, cover and keep warm.

Chocolate Filled Eclairs

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Makes 12 medium-sized eclairs

Pastry

3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use an eclair pan.

Put the butter in a saucepan with the salt and water; bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the butter is melted.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour; continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds.

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Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the eggs to the slightly cooled flour mixture one at a time, beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition — the batter will come apart after each egg is added but will reunite as you stir.

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Mound dough about 1 inch high and 1 to 2 inches in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between each one. If using an eclair pan simply fill the indentations.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and pierce the bottom of each puff once with a skewer, to keep them from getting soggy.

Return to the oven; prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and let the puffs crisp up for about 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.

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Chocolate Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Place cream, vanilla extract, sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and chill the bowl and the beaters for at least 30 minutes.

When chilled, beat until stiff peaks form.

Glaze

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth; then add the vanilla.

To assemble the éclairs:

Cut the eclairs in half lengthwise. Pipe or spoon the filling into the pastries, then dip the tops of each one into the glaze.

For best results, serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within several hours.

Note: Puffs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days; freeze unfilled eclairs for longer storage. If the eclairs soften in storage, they can be crisped up in the oven before filling and serving. To re-crisp; bake uncovered in a 300°F for about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

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The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article on how we waste food in America. They noted that the average four-person family spends about $2,000 a year on food that ultimately ends up in the garbage. Throwing away leftovers or unused produce that goes bad in the refrigerator is very wasteful. Being frugal and using what you have is smart and will certainly save you lots of money.

Keeping to my theme from last week of planning meals so food is not wasted, I wanted to share with you how I came about making this dinner for us. I don’t always recycle leftovers into new dishes as I have written about in earlier posts, but I do sometimes think about what will go well with the leftovers that I have on hand or how I can use produce that is still in my refrigerator.

A few weeks ago my market had a special on white/red/purple baby potatoes – buy one 3 lb. bag and get one free. I always try to take advantage of these deals, if I like the produce or product.

I had some of the baby potatoes left after making the Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/01/11/what-is-in-season-in-january/) and the Easy Skillet Potato recipe: (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/) that I wrote about in earlier posts.

Last week, I made Carrots Agrodolce and we had about half of the recipe leftover. (See link: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/).

The next step was to plan what would go well with the potatoes and the carrot dish.

I shop at a Publix market and every week they email me their circular. I use it to plan my shopping list and meals for the week. I saw a great buy this week on organic chicken – buy one package and get another free. Don’t see that too often. So chicken was on the menu and I decided it should be buttermilk oven fried chicken – one of my favorites.

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Potatoes keep awhile but not forever. I separated the baby purple potatoes from the others because I thought they would make an attractive salad to go with the chicken.

Purple Potato Salad

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Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds small (baby) purple potatoes
3 scallions, sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the scallions, celery and remaining ingredients and mix well.

Drain the potatoes. Rinse in cold water and cut into thin slices.

Place the warm potatoes in the bowl with the dressing and toss well. Chill until serving time.

Oven Fried Buttermilk Chicken

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Ingredients

5-6 pieces skinless chicken, bone-in or boneless
1 cup buttermilk
2 dashes hot sauce
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling on the breaded chicken

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a zip lock bag. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and add to the bag. Marinate for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Turn the bag occasionally to evenly distribute the buttermilk.

In a shallow bowl, blend the flour with the seasonings. Place the eggs in a second shallow bowl and the Panko crumbs in a third shallow bowl.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and drain.

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Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mix to coat all sides, shaking off any excess flour. Next, dip each piece in the eggs. Then in the bowl of Panko crumbs, gently press the crumbs into the chicken to coat evenly.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place each chicken piece on a greased rack set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the breaded chicken pieces with paprika.

Bake boneless chicken for 30 minutes and bone-in chicken for 45 minutes or until the chicken is crispy and a meat thermometer registers 165°.

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February is not quite spring and the market selections still look like winter in most areas of the US, unless you like to buy produce from South America. However, that is not eating what is is season. So still plentiful are winter squashes, celery, leeks, fennel, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, citrus fruit and apples. Since I live in the south, spring vegetables are starting to appear but I try to keep in mind what most readers can find seasonally at this time of the year. Here are some recipes for what you can cook with these seasonal ingredients.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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To make this dish into a main entrée add a 1/2 cup cooked rice or quinoa to the filling ingredients before the second baking. This makes a great side dish for pork chops.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil and place the squash halves in the baking dish, cut side down. Place the squash in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and turn the squash halves upright and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the squash and divide the cranberries and pecans equally and fill the squash. Add 1/2 an inch of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil

Return the squash to the oven and bake for 50 minutes more or until tender.

Easy Skillet Potatoes

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This side dish goes well with just about everything. I like to make extra because I can use the leftover potatoes in an omelet.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb small new potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the potato slices across the bottom of the skillet.

Cook without stirring for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom. Turn the potatoes over with a wide spatula and spread them out in the skillet.

Sprinkle potato slices with the garlic, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly brown on the bottom.

Serve immediately.

Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad

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This salad is very refreshing, especially in the winter. It has great flavor and we like it served with fish.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 celery stalks, cut on the bias
Half a cucumber, peeled, sliced into quarters and cut on the bias
Quarter of a red onion, diced
Half a green bell pepper, sliced and cut on the bias
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut on the bias
8-10 Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite Greek or Italian salad dressing
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Combine all the vegetables in a serving bowl and mix. Add the olives, feta cheese and salad dressing; mix well.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with the oregano and refrigerate for several hours or until serving time.

Carrots Agrodolce

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Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet) and the recipe comes from the Venetian-Jewish culinary tradition. Agrodolce is made by using sour and sweet elements, traditionally vinegar and sugar. Sometimes, additional flavorings are added, such as wine, fruit (raisins) or even chocolate.

This dish goes well with grilled meats.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

10-12 oz carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (optional)

Directions

Cut the carrots in half crosswise, then slice into lengthwise sticks, stack the carrots on top of each other and finely slice into matchsticks or shred on the large holes of a grater.

Place the carrots, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the honey and mix. Add the vinegar, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir until there is a glaze coating the carrots, about 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, if desired. Place in a serving dish and serve at room temperature.

Sautéed Fennel and Leek

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This side dish goes well with oven roasted chicken, grilled fish or sausage.

If you want a heartier side dish, add one peeled baking potato, sliced thin, to the fennel in the skillet and cook along with the fennel before adding the remaining ingredients.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, top removed cored and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large leek, tough greens removed cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add the fennel (and potato slices if using), cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add leeks and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes more.

Stir in lemon zest and butter; adjust seasonings and serve.

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It may seem like “slim pickens”, when you look at what fruit is available in the winter in your market. With a second look, however, there are plenty of choices and they great choices for cooking or baking. Look for citrus fruit, apples, bananas, pears and dates. These are all good choices for salads, pancakes and muffins or to garnish main dish meats and fish.

Meyer Lemon Bread

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1 loaf

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 lightly beaten egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely shredded Meyer lemon peel
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice

Lemon Glaze

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest

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Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, the baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In another medium bowl or measuring cup combine the egg, milk, oil, lemon peel and the 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.

Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make a glaze: Combine the glaze ingredients until smooth and spread over the cooled cake. Let harden before wrapping the ;oaf.

Citrus Salad

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Turn this salad into a main course by adding cooked shrimp or chicken. I especially like shrimp in this salad.

Orange Vinaigrette

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 shallots, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Grated zest of 1 orange,

Salad

1 bulb fennel, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced
! grapefruit
1 orange
1 tablespoon olive oil

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

To make the vinaigrette:

Whisk the shallots, raspberry vinegar, honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil in while whisking. Add the orange zest. Set aside

Peel the fruit and cut into segments.

In a large bowl, cover the fennel and onion with ice water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Transfer the fennel and onion to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Lift the fennel and onion from the dressing and transfer to a serving platter.

Arrange the citrus segments evenly over the fennel and onion. (If adding shrimp, arrange it on top of the salad.) Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Baked Apple Sauce

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Applesauce can be flavored with maple syrup or cinnamon. You can also add cranberries to the cooking apples to make a cran-applesauce. It makes wonderful tasting pancakes and muffins and is a great side to roasted pork.

Makes 12 servings.

Ingredients

4 lbs. (about 10 medium) assorted apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold and Honey Crisp, peeled, cored, and quartered
1/3 cup fresh apple cider or apple juice
4 lemon slices, cut paper-thin
2 tablespoons honey, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place apples, cider or juice and lemon slices in a large heavy, ovenproof casserole with a cover and mix well.. If using honey add it in and toss again.

Bake apples, covered, for 60 to 75 minutes, until very soft and moist. Stir to combine. If it is too wet, bake applesauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer.

Cool to room temperature before serving; applesauce thickens as it cools. The applesauce keeps, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days or 6 months in the freezer.

Coconut Banana Pudding

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Ingredients

1 ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 dash salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Honey Bananas

1 tablespoon butter
1 banana, sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon hot water

Directions

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and stir in the mashed banana.

In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the salt, eggs and coconut milk. Stir well and add to the banana in the saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; cook until thickened.

Remove from the heat; add vanilla and mix well. Pour into a storage bowl or 4 individual dessert dishes.

To make the honey bananas:

Melt the butter in a small skillet.

Arrange the banana slices in the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until lightly brown.

Whisk together the honey and 1 tablespoon of water.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the honey mixture over the bananas. Shake the pan to distribute.

Divide the bananas and syrup over the top of the pudding. Chill for several hours before serving.

 


 

january-blog-background-004Think there isn’t much? Not so – there is plenty.

Root Vegetables, Citrus Fruit, Leeks and Onions, Greens, such as kale, Potatoes and Beets are all available in January and make great tasting meals.

Purchasing seasonal foods is a healthy and cost-effective way to approach food shopping. Grocery stores tend to stock up on these items in bulk because they are plentiful, making them less expensive for you—especially when they go on sale or offer buy one; get one free.

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Celery Bisque

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of celery, diced including leaves
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch scallions (green onions) or use a leek, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup half & half (cream and milk)
Garnish with chopped chives and sour cream

Directions

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 30 minutes.

Add the broth, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

Return the pot to the heat. Stir in the cream and heat on low. Garnish individual servings with chopped fresh chives and sour cream, if desired.

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Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken Breasts

Use any herb you like. When cold nights come in, I bring my herb pots indoors, so I always have fresh herbs on hand.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 whole fresh basil stalk, leaves removed and sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
2 bone-in, medium chicken breast halves, skinned
Salt and ground black pepper
6 very small potatoes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
¼ of a fennel bulb, sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a shallow baking pan with olive oil.

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with the lemon zest and juice.

Scatter the potatoes, fennel, carrots and garlic around the chicken.

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Bake, uncovered, spooning the pan juices over the chicken once or twice, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the chicken with the basil and return the pan to the oven.

Bake 10-15 minutes more or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 170°F and the juices are clear.

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Beets, Red Onion & Orange Salad

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
4 small, cooked beets, sliced
1 navel orange
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cup washed, dried, whole Bibb lettuce leaves

Directions

Soak onion slices in cold water for 10 minutes; drain.

With a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing white pith. Slice the orange between the membranes over a mixing bowl to catch the oranges and any juice.

Pour any juice in the bowl into a measuring cup. Add more orange juice to equal ¼ cup.

Whisk together the orange juice, oil, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in the measuring cup.

Place lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Arrange beets, onions and orange slices on top. Drizzle with some of the dressing and serve.


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During the holidays or for game events, I like to serve small plate foods. Guests can serve themselves and take what they like, when they want it. These plates look attractive and can often be prepared in advance. I set up a few hot plates and place the dishes on there so they stay warm for several hours. I often make Eggplant Parmesan and Greek spinach and Feta Pie and cut them into small squares as an option.

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For Christmas, I received a Himalayan Salt block for a gift. As the name suggests, a Himalayan Salt Block is a large block of pink salt and mine came with a tray with handles that holds the block securely. The block can be frozen to keep foods cold and it can also be used on the grill. I used mine for a get together of friends on New Year’s Day and served smoked salmon and whitefish on the block. It looked very attractive and gave the fish a little salt flavor.

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Other dishes that work well for small plates are Italian Sausage and Peppers, small sandwiches, celery stuffed with flavored cream cheese, shrimp salad and, of course, a cheese board.

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Here are some recipes for small plates that I like to serve.

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Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving

Directions

In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.

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Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking lightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.

Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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Sautéed Calamari

Ingredients

For the bread crumb topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the calamari:

1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Make the bread crumb topping:

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside

For the calamari:

Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.

Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.

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Roast Beef Rolls

Ingredients

½ lb deli sliced roast beef, cut very thin
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into squares
3 cups baby arugula
Italian salad dressing
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Pour a little salad dressing over the arugula and mix well. You just want the leaves moistened not drowning in dressing.

Place the roast beef slices on a work surface.

Place a piece of roasted pepper on top. Then add a spoonful of arugula salad.

Roll each slice up tightly and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

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Chicken Pesto Sliders

Ingredients

12 small dinner rolls or slider rolls
½ lb deli sliced roast chicken, sliced very thin
2-3 plum tomatoes sliced thin
8 oz.fresh mozzarella, sliced
Basil Pesto

Directions

Spread a little pesto on both sides of the rolls.

On each roll place 2 slices of chicken, a slice of tomato and a slice of mozzarella.

Close the rolls and place them on a baking sheet.

Heat in a 325 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt.

Remove the sliders from the oven and place on a serving tray.


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How about Italian?

Since Thursday – when we had the traditional Thanksgiving feast – we have had leftover turkey dinner night and turkey sandwiches for lunch. So tonight it is a total menu change – Italian Shells Stuffed with Ricotta with Meatballs and Italian Sausage.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells 

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Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Half a sweet onion, finely diced
  • Two 26-28 ounce containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes

Filling:

  • 2 lbs (32 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 24 jumbo dried pasta shells

Directions

Oil two 13 x 9-inch baking pans, or equivalent. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to boiling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the sauce:

Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, onion and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the  heat and let cool.

To make the filling:

Combine the ricotta, egg, parsley and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella. Set aside.

To make the pasta:

Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until barely al dente. Don’t overcook the shells or they will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool  on kitchen towels until you can handle them with your hands.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of each prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta filling, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through and the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8

Meatballs and Italian Sausage

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For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 26-32 oz container imported chopped Italian tomatoes (Preferably without salt or sugar added)
  • 6 oz can (170 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt  
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves

For the Meatballs and Sausage

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb Italian sausage

Directions

To make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and brown on all sides; then remove to a plate. Slice the sausage into 3-inch lengths,

img_00131

Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.

Stir well and cook the paste a minute or two. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat to low.

Place the lid on the pot but leave it ajar and cook the sauce until thick, about 2 hours. When the meatballs and sausage are browned, add them to the sauce after it has been cooking for 1 hour.

Stir the meatballs carefully so they do not break.

Place the meatballs and sausage in a large bowl and pour some of the sauce over the meat. Serve extra sauce on the side.

meatballs

To make the meatballs:

Combine the bread cubes with the milk in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the onion and garlic.Cook until the onion is soft. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the onion to room temperature.

In a large  mixing bowl combine the beef with the cooled onion, the bread and the soaking liquid with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and form the mixture into 12 meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake the meatballs until brown all over, about 20 minutes.

Italian Mixed Green Salad

IMG_0028

Any of the following:

  • Mixed baby lettuces
  • Cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Italian vinaigrette

Toss the ingredients together just before serving.



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