Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces

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This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth

Directions

Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.

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Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.

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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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Italian Style Meatloaf

This dinner can serve 8. Less and you have plenty of leftovers or the makings for a few sandwiches. I add lots of vegetables to my meatloaf and, of course, lots of Italian flavors. Meatloaf freezes well and I usually cut extra slices off the loaf to freeze individually to use at a later date. Just defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups tomato (marinara) sauce, divided
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef (I use grass-fed beef)
  • 1 cup Italian flavored dried bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, vegetables, bread crumbs, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, seasonings and parsley with your hands until thoroughly mixed.

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Form into a loaf and put into a rectangular baking pan with 2-inch high sides.

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Bake the meatloaf in the oven for 1 hour. Pour the remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.

Return the dish to the oven just until the cheese melts.

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Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs small red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Spread the olive oil out on a baking sheet. Add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Toss well and spread the potatoes out into an even layer.

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Bake in the oven at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the meatloaf.

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Sautéed Zucchini and Fennel

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cubed
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic and fennel and saute until lightly brown.

Add the zucchini, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the zucchini is tender.


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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

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Tomatoes were yellow and orange-colored at the beginning of the tomato’s cultivation, with the color red becoming more prevalent through many years of breeding. Today, there are hundreds of different types of tomatoes in colored varieties that include red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and black. Some tomatoes, like Heirloom and cherry, come in many varieties, as well.

Most people consider the red tomato varieties the most popular, especially the Beefsteak and Roma varieties. Pink tomatoes have similar flavors to the red ones, that include the Pink Girl and Brandywine varieties. Orange tomato varieties include Persimmon and Mountain Gold and they are usually sweeter than red tomatoes, due to a higher sugar content. Yellow varieties, such as Golden Boy and Garden Peach, are similar to the orange type, but are usually less tangy than red tomatoes. There are green tomato varieties (not just unripened tomatoes) that ripen green and usually have a lower acidic taste than red tomatoes.

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed

Herbs

Place the following  herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

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Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook  until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

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Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.

Pepper Pizza

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 cups fresh tomato sauce, see recipe above
  • 1 ½ cups leftover sautéed peppers and onions, see recipe here
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, cut into strips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Move an oven rack to lowest position in the oven.

Press the dough out on a greased pizza pan. Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella.

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Spread the sauce over the cheese. Place the peppers and onions evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with the hot pepper.

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Place the pizza in the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the prosciutto slices evenly on top.

Return the pizza to the oven for about a minute or two to warm the prosciutto. Set the pizza on the counter on top of a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

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Tomato Jam is great on burgers in place of ketchup or served alongside grilled meat or fish. It also pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and cured meats. I like to serve it as an appetizer, as part of a cheese board selection.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes), cored and quartered
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, sugar, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 2-second pulses.

In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.

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Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, until it is glossy and has a jam like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).

Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.

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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 



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