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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: pizza

flatbread1

Flatbreads are breads made with flour, water and salt that are rolled into a flattened dough and baked. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast—although some are slightly leavened, such as pita bread. Flatbread became known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), when the Sumerians discovered that edible grains could be mashed into a paste and then baked/hardened into a flatbread. Unleavened breads (such as matzoh which is not prepared with leavening) are usually flatbreads that hold special religious significance in Judaism and Christianity.

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Flatbreads may contain such ingredients as curry powder, diced jalapenos, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added, as well, and flatbreads are usually thin. Cheese and  tomato sauce are not usually added to flatbread.

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Pizza, on the other hand, is usually made from dough containing yeast that is topped with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and vegetables. The crust is usually thin and most of the surface is covered with the toppings.

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Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs and may at times be topped with onion, Focaccia can be used as the bread to accompany a meal. The primary difference between conventional pizza and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil.

Easy Flatbread

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Makes two 12-inch breads

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed

Directions

Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

To shape the dough:

Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths. Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Cut the dough into 2 pieces.

Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each piece of dough with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes for the gluten  to relax.

Turn the dough over and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Turn again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with the remaining salt.

Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes and carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with salami,  cheese, peppery extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes.

Neapolitan Pizza

For 1 pizza

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Dough, recipe below
  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 cup sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Prepare pizza dough as directed in the recipe below. About 2 hours before baking, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to proof.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan.

Place one ball of dough in the pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Top the dough with All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and several basil leaves brushed with olive oil.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, cheese is turning golden, and edges of pizza are golden brown.

All-Purpose Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt or 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except olive oil cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead.

Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough in three portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand to come to room temperature.

All-Purpose Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

  • One 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.

Onion Focaccia

onion foccacia bread bites

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt , divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds sweet yellow onions , cut into eighths and thickly sliced

Directions

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil and 1 cup warm water, then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly oiled 15-inch x 11-inch jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out to the edges of the pan. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over the dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.

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kidscover

This time of year I have many visitors and they often include my grandchildren. It is easy enough to plan meals that appeal to the grown-ups but not always so easy to prepare foods the children like to eat. Of course pizza is the number one favorite.

Here are some recipes that I have found that the young ones like and ask for again and again. These are delicious recipes with fats kept low and healthy ingredients added where they will be accepted.

Breakfast

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Cheese Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus extra if needed

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, lemon juice and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and syrupy, about 5 to 6 minutes; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar and a pinch of salt.

In a second bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, milk and eggs. Add the cottage cheese mixture to the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. In batches, drop large spoonfuls (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the skillet and cook until bubbles begin to appear in the center.

Turn the pancakes and cook 1 minute more; repeat with the remaining batter and add additional oil if needed.

Serve with the blueberry sauce.

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Cinnamon French Toast

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 slices hearty sandwich bread
  • Vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 1 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine sauce ingredients and refrigerate until serving time.

Beat eggs, yogurt and cinnamon in a wide shallow dish until blended.

Cut each slice of bread into 3 sections. Soak the bread pieces in the egg mixture, turning once.

Coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with vegetable oil; heat over medium heat until hot.

Place as many bread pieces as will fit in the skillet or on the griddle and cook over medium to medium-low heat until golden brown and no visible liquid remains, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Repeat with any remaining bread pieces. Serve toast with dipping sauce.

Lunch

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Spinach Mac & Cheese

Serve with fresh fruit.

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar
  • 3 oz. Velveeta Light cheese, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Boil macaroni two minutes less than the package directions.

While pasta cooks, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Pour remaining 1 1/2 cups milk into a large saucepan and heat over low. Once milk is slightly warmed, turn heat to medium-low and add flour and milk mixture, stirring constantly until thick. Reduce heat slightly and add butter, cheeses and salt. Cook until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach.

Drain macaroni, then combine with the cheese mixture, stirring thoroughly.

Divide macaroni mixture among eight small ovenproof dishes. Place baking dishes on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly and evenly on the top and bake 25 to 30 minutes.

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Ham and Cheese Calzones

Serve with vegetable sticks.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package refrigerated pizza dough (for 1 crust)
  • 1/4 cup mild mustard
  • 8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces sliced deli ham

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Line a baking sheet with foil; lightly grease the foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat the dough into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut dough in half crosswise and lengthwise to make 4 rectangles.

Spread mustard over each rectangle. Divide half of the cheese among the rectangles, placing cheese on one half of each rectangle.

Top with ham and then the remaining cheese. Brush the edges of the dough with water.

For each calzone, fold dough over filling to the opposite edge, stretching slightly if necessary. Seal edges with the tines of a fork.

Place calzones on the prepared baking sheet. Prick tops to allow steam to escape. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner

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Chicken Fingers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound chicken breast tenders (fingers), about 8
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup  Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Olive oil cooking spray   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 9”x13” glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish and pour the egg substitute over them.  Rotate and coat all the fingers.

Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and dredge fingers in the crumbs.

Place coated chicken in the prepared baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle fingers with the olive oil.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn fingers over and bake 15 minutes more.

Serve with the ranch dip, if desired.

Healthy Ranch Dip

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill.

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Spaghetti with Basil Pesto

This dish is second to pizza in our house.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of basil leaves packed tightly in a measuring cup
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves, cut in pieces
  • 1/4 cup pignoli or walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the garlic, nuts, salt and pepper in the processor and pulse a few times. Add the basil leaves and with the processor running, add the olive oil slowly.

Process until the mixture becomes a paste. Pour the sauce into a pasta serving bowl and set aside.

Cook 1 lb. of spaghetti in boiling salted water  until al dente. Just before you drain the pasta, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside.

Add the drained pasta to the serving bowl with the pesto and add 2 tablespoons of butter, the pasta water and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

Garnish with freshly grated black pepper. Serve.

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Homemade Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Pizza sauce, recipe below
  • Dried oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the dough to the edges of an oiled pizza pan.

Layer the sliced cheese on top of the dough.

Spread some pizza sauce on top.

Sprinkle with oregano.

Bake the pizza for about 20 minutes until lightly brown and crispy. Garnish with fresh basil.

5 Minute Pizza Sauce

  • One 28 oz. container diced Italian tomatoes 
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, but before it takes on color, add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the sauce begins to bubble, turn the heat back down to medium low.

Season with salt and pepper. Add the red pepper flakes and the basil. Cook for another minute of two and remove from the heat.


chicken Tight on time? No problem. Try one of these simple yet delicious chicken recipes for dinner tonight. People love chicken for its taste, healthfulness and low-fat content, as well as how easy it is to cook with. Chicken is one of the fastest cooking meats but it’s easy to overcook chicken breasts. These recipes for quick chicken use lots of different vegetables, herbs and spices to make delicious. Once you’ve mastered a recipe, try changing it! Add different ingredients and seasonings.

Spices work well when blended together into a rub for chicken. Spices like cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander seed and black pepper make a good blend for a Spanish or Mexican dish. Indian spices include saffron, sesame, turmeric and ground ginger while many Eastern European dishes flavor chicken with spices like paprika, cinnamon, allspice and mace. Use salt sparingly for more healthful eating and rely on true spices for the majority of your flavoring.

Savory herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon and sage go well with chicken. Use one flavor, such as rosemary for a singular accent or create a blend, adding in lighter herbs like chives or parsley for balance. Don’t try to blend two very strong flavors, like rosemary and sage or the palate will be confused. Other good herbs for chicken include lemon balm, fennel, mint, marjoram, coriander and garlic. An alternative to applying these herbs directly to the chicken is to toss a few fresh sprigs into the frying or roasting pan and cooking them alongside the chicken to capture the strong aromas in the meat.

Basic directions for quick grilled and seasoned chicken breasts:

Rub equal amounts of Seasoning Mixture under the skin of each bone-in breast. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on grill over medium heat and cook about 25 minutes or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced with a tip of a knife, turning over once.

  • Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 2 minced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil and 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped.
  • Garlic-Herb Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 2 garlic cloves,minced, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel.
  • Sage-Butter Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon softened margarine or butter and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves.

 

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Chicken Caprese Style

4 servings Ingredients

  • 3 large ripe plum tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), cored, seeds squeezed out, and diced
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs or refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 pounds total)

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, mix tomatoes, mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and chopped basil for the Caprese salad. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve. Place flour on a large plate. Lightly beat eggs in a shallow bowl. Spread the bread crumbs on another plate.

Dip chicken first in the flour, then in the egg and finally into the bread crumbs, pressing to adhere. Sprinkle both sides with the remaining salt and pepper. Place on a large plate.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reads 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Turn a few times, if necessary, to avoid burning.

To serve, spoon an equal amount of Caprese salad over each piece of chicken. Garnish with additional basil and serve with sautéed greens and garlic bread, if desired. chicken2

Chicken and Polenta

Ingredients

  • Half of a 6 1/2 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes with Italian herbs
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup assorted olives, drained
  • ½ cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 small bay leaves 
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drain sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the reserved oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in hot oil 3 minutes on each side or until browned; remove skillet from the heat. Add tomatoes, olives, wine and bay leaves.

Transfer skillet to the oven. Bake, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into chicken.

Meanwhile, for polenta, in a large saucepan bring the 3 cups water to boiling. In a medium bowl combine polenta, the 1 cup cold water and the 1 teaspoon salt; gradually stir into the boiling water. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; stir occasionally. Remove chicken from the oven; discard bay leaves. Serve chicken with polenta and olives. chicken3

Braised Balsamic Chicken

This dish is good served over your favorite quick cooking rice and green beans make a nice side dish.

Servings: 6 Ingredients

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic 
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Season both sides of chicken breasts with garlic salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook seasoned chicken breasts until chicken is browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.

Add remaining oil, onion, mushrooms and brown sugar to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Stir well and return chicken to the pan.

Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). chicken4

Pesto Chicken Packets

4 servings Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas or asparagus
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill. Cut four 18 x 12 inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Place a chicken breast half on each piece of foil. Divide tomatoes and sugar snap peas over chicken.

In small bowl, combine pesto with mayonnaise. Divide this mixture over the chicken on each piece of foil. Fold foil over chicken and seal edges, using a double fold method.

Cover and grill packets 6″ from medium coals or on a moderate gas grill for 25-30 minutes or until chicken registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer.

You can also bake the packets in a preheated 450 degrees F oven for 23-30 minutes or until done. chicken5

Grilled Chicken Kabobs Over Greek Salad

Just add some warm pita bread. Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 12-inch metal skewers
  • Greek Salad, recipe below

Directions

Mix chicken, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, mint, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Let marinate 30 minutes.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Pull off large mint leaves from stems.

Alternate chicken, onion, and mint leaves on skewers; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until chicken is just cooked through, turning and basting occasionally with oil-lemon mixture, about 9 minutes. Serve over Greek Salad.

Greek Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced seeded peeled cucumber (from about 1 large)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (from about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions

Mix the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.


Classic Italian foods such as pizza, bruschetta, pasta, rice, soups, and stews all typically include this blend of herbs. The mixture can be used to season lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and beef dishes.  Sandwiches, meat marinades, salads, and flavored breads can also be seasoned with Italian herbs.

One popular use of Italian seasonings involves mixing them with butter and Parmesan cheese to make a spread to use on breads, crackers, and other foods. Vegetables that are particularly good when flavored with Italian seasonings include potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. Italian seasoning can be used to flavor vinegar, olive oil, and other dips and sauces as well.

Italian seasoning blend is considered a staple herbal mix in most pantries. It can be purchased pre-mixed from grocery stores, farmer’s markets and most places where food supplies are sold. Italian seasonings are usually sold in a plastic or glass jar, though some fresh varieties can be purchased in sealed bags or other airtight packages.  Blends can, also, be created from fresh herbs at home.

ESSENTIAL ITALIAN SPICES

Rosemary: The fresh, strong taste of rosemary enhances poultry, fish, and seafood. Italian cooks often add it to roasted lamb with potatoes and many grilled meats as well. Try it in any vegetable dish and in breads, especially focaccia.  The woody stems are often used in place of skewers for grilling kabobs.

Sage: This herb is typically found in stuffings, poultry and meat dishes, sausages and soups. Italian cooks also use it, along with garlic, to flavor butter for pasta dishes. It enhances salads (especially bean salads), and dressings. Sage is traditional in Tuscan white beans and in Saltimbocca, a veal dish.  Chopped sage can be added to cornbread for a different flavor combination.

Chilies: Italian cooks sometimes use pungent chili peppers to enliven sauces, stews, and seafood dishes. They’re also often found in Italian sausages. Experiment with different varieties for different effects.

Fennel Seeds: The distinct, licorice-like fennel is found in Italian meatballs and sausage and with roasted meats and fish. To enhance the flavor, toast the seeds lightly before adding to your dish.

Chives: For a mild onion flavor, Italian cooks use chives in salads and dressings, pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and stews. Dried chives are a convenient staple.

Marjoram: Like its relative oregano, marjoram is used liberally in Italian kitchens. It’s a versatile seasoning, compatible with many vegetables, meats and poultry. You’ll find it used in recipes for Italian soups, stews, sauces, and salad dressings.

Thyme: Its affinity for tomatoes makes thyme a good choice in Italian cooking.  Aromatic and pungent, it takes just a light touch to season poultry, seafood, fish, meats, marinades and stuffing. Sprinkle thyme on top of blue cheese and serve with fresh figs for a great appetizer.

Bay: Bay leaves are an important addition to Italian broths, soups and stews, grilled meats, and roasted poultry. It generally takes just one leaf to fully season a large serving.

Onions: “Sauté onion and garlic” begins many an Italian recipe. Dried onion flakes, onion powder, onion granules, minced onion and onion salt provide maximum convenience. Add them directly to soups and sauces, dressings and casseroles.

Nutmeg: Not just a dessert spice in the Italian kitchen, nutmeg adds a rich scent and flavor to ravioli filling and tortellini dishes. You’ll also find it in recipes for Bolognese meat sauce and Italian stews.

Basil:  A member of the mint family, basil has shiny green leaves and a fragrant aroma. Basil’s flavor is sweet and pungent.  Good in all tomato, pepper and eggplant dishes. Try adding chopped basil to corn on the cob.

Sauces

Salsa Verde

Salsa verde is used as a condiment or dipping sauce for grilled meats, fish, poultry, or vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 whole garlic clove
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

Directions:
Put the parsley, capers, the whole garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard,  salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times. With the machine running, add the oil and chicken broth in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree. Leave this salsa verde in the food processor until ready to serve; pulse to re-emulsify just before serving.

Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo

Recipe makes enough sauce for 9 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta, cooked
4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed but kept whole
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming. Whisk in the flour until mixture is smooth and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, half-and-half, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard garlic, stir in Parmesan and remove from heat.

Spaghetti Carbonara Low Fat Version

I prefer to use egg substitute instead of the traditional raw eggs in this recipe.

4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cooked whole wheat spaghetti,
  • 2 bacon strips cooked, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix parmesan cheese with egg substitute. Set aside.
Heat a large sauté pan and add olive oil. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Add the cooked pasta to the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute to heat
the pasta up. Add the egg substitute mixture and cook until thickened but not scrambled.
Serve in individual portions and sprinkle each with the crumbled bacon and chopped parsley

Sicilian Pistachio Sauce

This orange-scented sauce from Sicily can be served with fish or vegetables, or as a topping for crostini.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, moistened with water and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic. When the garlic is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the salt, bread crumbs and pistachios and process to a paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Turn on the machine and add the orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice. With the machine still running slowly pour in the olive oil. Taste and adjust salt.
Yield: Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Advance preparation: This will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. It will become more pungent.

Piedmontese Tomato Sauce

Good with gnocchi or as a side with grilled flank steak.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped 
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Fine sea salt 
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 

Directions:
In a large skillet combine bell pepper, tomato, onion, oil and pinch salt. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, 1 minute more. Process with an immersion blender or strain through a mesh colander and transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Sicilian Pesto

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 serrano chilies, cored, and seeded, depending on how spicy you like your food
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • Salt 

Directions:
Place the basil, mint, garlic, chilies, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and almonds in a food processor and pulse three times to start the chopping process. Add in the oil in a thin stream and pulse four or five times to create a thick paste (not a thin, oily sauce). Add ¼ cup of the cheese and pulse once to mix it in.
Season the pesto with salt, if it needs it.

Butter and Sage Sauce                                                              

Good sauce for ravioli or gnocchi and will cover a 8-9 oz. of fresh pasta.
Serves:  4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

While your pasta cooks, melt butter in a small saute pan and continue cooking until a golden brown color just starts to appear . Add sage leaves and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and the cheese.  Drizzle over cooked pasta.

Easy Pizza Sauce

Makes enough sauce for 2 pizzas.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes 
  • 1- 28-oz. container Pomi strained tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, increase heat until sauce starts to bubble. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until thickened, 20 minutes. Stir in honey, basil and salt and pepper to taste. 

Spices                                                                                                                                                                                 

Homemade Italian Seasoning

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 cup dried basil
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dried marjoram
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup dried savory
  • 2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight glass container.

Italian Parmesan Paste

This is a cheese rub that contains herbs and spices for flavor and olive oil and red wine vinegar to turn the mixture into a thick paste. Use this rub on any grilled meat to add great Italian flavor.

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a processor and pulse just until combined.  Pour into a nonreactive airtight container and refrigerate.

Marinades

Chicken or Steak Italian Marinade

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Mix above ingredients. Use to marinate chicken or steak for up to 3 days in refrigerator.

Vegetable Marinade    

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cups chopped parsley

Directions:
Combine water, both vinegars, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and parsley in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, cover and chill at least 2-3 hours. Drizzle over cooked vegetables.




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