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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces

Stuffed Zucchini

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
One large zucchini (10-12 oz)
4 oz lean ground beef
1 mini bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine
2 scallions (green onions) chopped fine
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut the zucchini in half. Remove most of the flesh with a serrated spoon. Do not go too deep or you will pierce the outer skin. Chop the zucchini flesh into small pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet. Add the meat and brown it completely. Remove to a medium mixing bowl. Add the garlic, bell pepper, scallions and zucchini flesh to the skillet. Cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Add the vegetable mixture to the browned meat along with the remaining ingredients (tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and mozzarella). Stir well and spoon the mixture into the zucchini shells. Place the stuffed zucchini in an oiled baking dish. Drizzle the top with a little oil. (Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top and the zucchini is tender.

Eggplant Parmigiana

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

Salt
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

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

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

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat lightly with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

This stage can be done ahead of time. The eggplant slices can be stored with foil between the slices in the refrigerator for a day or two or frozen until needed.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and place half of the cheese slices on top.

Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

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This is a great month to take advantage of some of the early spring crops that are coming to market. Broccoli, Cauliflower, all types of greens, beets and strawberries are some of the best choices. And, if you are lucky to have a friend who likes to garden, like me, you can reap some of the harvest. See the photo below for what I was treated to from his garden.

Stuffed Peppers

This recipe goes well with sautéed cabbage. See recipe below.

Ingredients

6 bell peppers, assorted colors
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup jarred, mild salsa
1 cup frozen cauliflower rice, defrosted, or regular cooked rice
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut the tops off the peppers. Reserve the top and remove the stem. Dice the tops and set aside.

Remove the seeds and membrane from the peppers. Wash and set on a paper towel, upside down, to drain.

Heat a skillet and add the oil. Brown the ground beef until you no longer see any pink color.

Push the beef to the side of the pan and add the onion, bell pepper tops and garlic. Saute until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool.

Stir in defrosted cauliflower rice, salsa and ½ cup cheese. Fill the peppers to the top and place them in a baking dish just large enough to hold the peppers upright.

I used some foil to support them and keep them from falling out.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 -40 minutes or until the peppers are tender.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and top each pepper with some of the remaining cheese. Return to the oven for five minutes to melt the cheese topping.

Sautéed Cabbage In Brown Butter

Ingredients

One head of savoy cabbage
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the large leaves from the cabbage for stuffing, Cut the rest of the cabbage head in half. Set aside one half for coleslaw or another recipe.

Thinly slice the remaining half of the cabbage.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet and cook until the butter turns a light brown, Add the onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes to tenderize the onions.

Add the sliced cabbage and cook until very soft and tender, about ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the stuffed peppers.

Oven BBQ Pork Roast and Vegetables

 

 

Ingredients

1 top loin pork roast, bone-in, about 3 pounds
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
8 oz carrots, thinly sliced
Half a sweet onion, cubed
1 ½ cups bottled or homemade BBQ sauce, see recipe below
Half a head of cauliflower cut into large florets

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 F.

Oil a roasting pan with foil and place the mushrooms, carrots, celery and onion on the bottom of the pan.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the cauliflower florets on two sides of the roast.

Pour the BBQ sauce over the pork.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes per pound, or until it registers at least 140 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Baste the pork roast with the barbecue sauce several times during the roasting time.

Let the roast rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup water
Two 6 oz cans tomato paste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried minced onion or powder
3/4 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer on low, uncovered, for about an hour.

Make sure to stir frequently, about once every 10 to 15 minutes, while the BBQ sauce is cooking.

This will help better incorporate the flavors and ensure that the sauce is evenly cooked throughout.

Let the sauce cool before transferring to a storage container.

Oven Roasted Salmon and Broccoli

2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 lb broccoli florets (about 2 floret tops)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Two 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rings, seeds removed if desired
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (scallions)
1 mini red bell pepper, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix broccoli florets with 1 tablespoon oil in a baking dish; season with salt and pepper.

Roast broccoli, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 10 minutes.

Combine the jalapeño slices, vinegar, scallions, bell pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt in small bowl.

Rub salmon with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Push broccoli to the edges of the baking dish and place salmon in the center.

Evenly distribute the jalapeno mixture over the salmon and broccoli.

Roast until salmon is cooked throughout and the broccoli is tender, 15 minutes. Serve with Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers In Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
Half of a large cucumber
3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (not low-fat)
2 scallions (green onion), minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Peel and seed the half cucumber. Grate the half cucumber on a box grater onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Peel the large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and cut into thin half-moon slices.

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl.Add grated cucumber to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients, except the sliced cucumber and stir well.

Fold in the cucumber slices.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.


Artist Pete Rumney

It has been very cold the past few weeks in most of the country, including the south. Warm casseroles and spicy dishes can warm you up but you don’t have to turn to macaroni and cheese for that to happen. Combining healthy foods with lots of flavor can do it for you. Try these recipes for a start.

Escarole and Italian Sausage Casserole

I save the ends of the parmesan cheese in a bag in the freezer and use them to flavor soups and stews.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 pound escarole, approximately 2 heads
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
1 lb cheese and parsley Italian sausage (or regular Italian sausage), sliced into half-inch pieces
1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
Parmesan cheese rind
Fresh black pepper

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored. Cut off the stem ends, wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and drain. Cut the leaves into two-inch lengths.

In a large Dutch Oven, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden but not brown. Add the escarole, salt and red pepper.

Cover and cook over moderate heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the escarole to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, onion, fennel bulb and sausage to the pan; cook until the sausage is browned, stirring frequently.

Add the broth, Parmesan rind, escarole and beans.

Cover; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Beef Burgundy

Like other stews, Beef Burgundy, tastes best when made ahead so the flavors have time to mingle. Serve with noodles, rice, mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash.

Roasted carrots make a nice side dish.

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour or arrowroot powder
1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 lb mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1-2 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic head, crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon is lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Break into smaller pieces.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and melt.

In batches, in single layers, sear the beef in the hot pan for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Remove the seared cubes with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Add onions the garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour or arrowroot over the onions and stir until no dry flour remains. Whisk in the wine, tomato paste and anchovy paste until combined.

Add the bay leaves, mushrooms and thyme to the pan.

Add the beef and bacon and enough beef broth to come almost to the top of the beef.

Place the pan, uncovered, into the oven and cook until the meat is tender, 3 ½-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth, if needed, to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Huevos Rancheros

Just a note here that this recipe is my version and not an authentic Mexican Huevos recipe.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
2 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
2 tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

Prepare the tortillas:

Heat the oven to 150° F. Place a pan large enough to fit the tortillas in the oven to heat.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil.

One by one heat the tortillas in the pan, a minute or two on each side, until they are heated through, softened and pockets of air bubble up inside of them.

Then, remove them to the pan in the oven to keep warm while you cook the sauce and the eggs.

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in the same skillet and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until tender. Add the salsa, tomatoes, chipotle and roasted red peppers.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Return the heat to medium, so that the sauce is bubbling slightly.

Crack 4 eggs into the sauce in the skillet, cover and cook for about 4 minutes until the egg are almost firm.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle each egg with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another minute to let the cheese melt and to finish cooking the eggs.

To serve:

Place a tortilla on a serving plate. With a large spoon place two eggs and half the sauce on top. Repeat with the second tortilla and eggs. Serve immediately.


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

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

Low Carb Coatings For Meat And Fish

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

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

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

Dinner Menu:

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

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

1 whole spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Parmesan Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

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

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

Directions

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

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

Combine the breadcrumb coating ingredients in a shallow dish

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

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

Place the breaded cutlets in the prepared baking dish.

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

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

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

Balsamic Mushrooms and Spinach

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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


 

Around the world, people eat certain foods thought to symbolize good fortune when the new year arrives. Here are a few recipes guaranteed to make you feel lucky.

Happy New Year.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pork, thanks to its rich fat content, symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

12 servings

Dry Rub:

3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

Mustard Barbecue Sauce:

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register at least 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it falls apart.

While the pork is roasting, make the mustard sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready for it.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 20 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to “pull” the meat. Use 2 forks: 1 to steady the meat and the other to “pull” shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with some of the mustard sauce.

Black-Eyed Peas

Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked. In Italy, it is customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it is traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.

Ingredients

4 cups shelled black-eyed peas
2 ounces bacon
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth, plus extra if needed
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel plate and reserve for later.

Add the onion and celery to the hot bacon fat and cook until tender. Add the peas and saute for a minute or two.

Add the thyme and 2 cups of chicken broth or just enough to cover the peas by about 1 inch. Add more if the peas are not covered.

Bring to a low boil and add the sugar and stir well.

Scoop off any foam that forms and discard it.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, let simmer for about 25 minutes.

Add the pepper and salt, stir well and continue to cook for 10 more minutes.

Taste the peas for tenderness, they should be tender after this amount of time but not mushy. Drain.

Top with the crumbled bacon and serve.

Southern Winter Greens 

Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens or kale
6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
Salt and pepper

Directions

Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.

Heat the butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in the greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffed Flounder

The Chinese word for “fish” sounds like the word for “abundance,” one of the many reasons fish has become a go-to good luck food. In Germany, Poland and Scandinavia, it’s believed that eating herring at the stroke of midnight will ensure a year of bounty—as herring are in abundance throughout Western Europe. Also, their silvery color resembles that of coins, a good omen for future fortune.

Ingredients

1 lb flounder fillets
1 pkg (10 oz) fresh spinach or a 10 oz package frozen, thawed and drained
1/4 cup Feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

Directions

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and scallions and saute for a minute or two.

Add spinach to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the feta and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each piece of fish.

Roll fish around stuffing. Place fish seam side down into an oiled baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil Sprinkle fish with oregano and paprika.

Bake at 400 degrees F uncovered for 30 minutes.

Fettuccine in Lemon Sauce

In China, Japan and other Asian countries, it’s customary to eat long noodles on New Year’s Day.because they signify. The noodles must not be broken or shortened during the cooking process.

Ingredients

1 pound fettuccine
1 clove garlic, grated
2 lemons (zest of 1 lemon, juice of 2 lemons)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Directions

Place the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente.

Place the grated garlic in a warm pasta serving bowl. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil while whisking.

Whisk until the ingredients have emulsified and add the cheese. Drain the spaghetti and add to the serving bowl. Mix the pasta with the lemon sauce to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the pasta dish with fresh parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.


Hear are some of my favorite dinners for entertaining friends over the holidays. The underlined entrees can be accessed by clicking the word.

Oven Barbecued Brisket

Serve with baked potatoes and green peas.

Cooking Time: About 4 hours

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole beef brisket, about 5 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven that can later be covered over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes.

When it is hot, add the oil, swirl it around, then add the beef.

Sear the meat for about 5 minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper; when nicely browned, remove from pot to a plate.

Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes (if the meat is very lean you might need to add a little oil).

Add all remaining ingredients, stir and cook for about a minute. Return the meat to pot, nestling it in sauce.

Cover the pan, put it in oven, and cook until the meat is tender, at least 3 hours and probably closer to 4. Turn the meat over several times during the baking process.

When the brisket is done, you can refrigerate it in its liquid for 1 to 2 days and reheat before serving.

Pasta Carbonara

Serve with a Green Mixed Leaf Salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced guanciale, pancetta or bacon (about 1/4 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or other long, thin pasta
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, or more to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

In a medium skillet, combine the olive oil and pork/bacon and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

Add salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of water before the draining pasta.

Beat eggs in a large warmed pasta serving bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan and the bacon and its juices. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with egg mixture.

Add a little of the pasta cooking water to moisten. Season with plenty of black pepper, and serve.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Serve with Meatballs and a salad.

Serves 6

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.

Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Serve with roasted acorn squash and creamed spinach.

Serves 6-8

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.

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.

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.


Preparing appetizers that can be made ahead or serving quickly prepared appetizers make entertaining for the holidays much easier. Here are a few of my favorites.

Stromboli

This stuffed bread recipe can be made ahead and reheated just before serving time.

Ingredients

2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
Olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, brush the seams with the beaten egg mixture

Place the Stromboli on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other dough in the same manner.

Cut four small slits in the top of the log. Cover the Stromboli with kitchen towels and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

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.

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 slightly 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 F oven for about 15 minutes.

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.

Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with your favorite Italian bread.

Greetings From The South

 



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