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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fish stew

Portugal

This is the second post in the series Cooking the Mediterranean Countries. You can read the first post with this link.

Europe’s exploration of the world began in the 15th century and it was Portugal who pioneered what came to be known as the “Age of Discovery”. Portugal was the first to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast of Africa and the first to colonize the Azores and other nearby islands. In 1488, Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias, was the first to sail around the southern tip of Africa and in 1498 his countryman, Vasco da Gama, repeated the trip, making it as far as India. Portugal would establish ports as far west as Brazil, as far east as Japan and along the coasts of Africa, India and China. There were several reasons for the Portuguese to explore the world via the sea, but the overriding purpose was to discover a sea route around Africa to the east, with its rich promise of trade in valuable spices.

Lisbon

When Ancel Keys and his team of researchers studied and characterized the Mediterranean diet and compared it with the eating habits of most of the developed countries during that time period, they identified it as the “Diet of the Poor”. According to Portuguese gastronomist, Maria de Lourdes Modesto and Keys, Portugal was included in their observations and studies, and Keys considered Portugal to have a pure “Mediterranean” diet. However, Salazar, the leader of Portugal at the time, did not want the name of Portugal included in the “diet of the poor”.

While Portugal’s shores are technically not on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is considered to have a typical Mediterranean diet. The basics of the Portuguese diet include vegetables, fruit, good quality bread, unprocessed cereals, dried and fresh legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, etc.), dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, raisins, etc.), olive oil as the main source of fat and seafood instead of red meat.

A Portuguese breakfast often consists of fresh bread, cheese or jam, accompanied with coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine) is a very popular breakfast beverage.

Lunch, often lasting over an hour, is served between noon and 2 o’clock or between 1 and 3 o’clock, and dinner is generally served late, around 8 o’clock in the evening. There are usually three main courses for lunch and dinner. Soup is usually the first course. A well-known Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage) There are a wide variety of cheeses, usually made from the milk of sheep, goats or cows. The most famous are queijo da serra from the region of Serra da Estrela, Queijo São Jorge from the Portuguese island of São Jorge and Requeijão.

Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Fish is served grilled, boiled, poached, simmered, fried, stewed (often in clay pot), roasted or steamed. Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic was developed before the invention of refrigeration. Simpler fish dishes are often flavored with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes and meat was not often on the Portuguese table. When meat is eaten it is often in a dish with other ingredients. A typical way Portuguese eat meat is in a dish is called cozido à portuguesa, which somewhat parallels the French pot au feu or the New England boiled dinner.

Typical desserts include arroz doce (rice pudding decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard.

Santo António festivities

Some Traditional Portuguese Dishes

COZIDO A PORTUGUESA

Portuguese stew is the perfect example of the importance of using all the meat an animal can provide. This stew can include beef, pork, chicken and a variety of pork derivatives such as blood sausages and smoked pork parts.

CALDO VERDE

The most traditional of Portuguese soups is simply: onions, potatoes and kale or cabbage, cooked with garlic and olive oil in a clay pot. This soup would normally be served with a slice of “linguica” ( smoked pork sausage) and cornbread (broa).

BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU

These codfish fritters can be eaten as a starter or snack or along with rice and salad as a main dish. The fritters are made of shredded codfish, potatoes, eggs and parsley and cooked until crispy.

ALHEIRA DE MIRANDELA

Alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage made from meats that may include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit, compacted together with bread. If you have “alheira de caça” it means that it will only have game meat. This unusual sausage was created by the Jewish residents in Portugal when they were forced to convert to Christianity. Their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork but by preparing this sausage looking dish, they could easily fool others. The dish has become traditional throughout Portugal.

SARDINHAS ASSADAS

Charcoal-grilled sardines are the most typical dish served in Lisbon. You can eat it in restaurants or from a street vendor during the Santo António festivities in June. They are most often served on top of a slice of cornbread, or with a roasted pepper salad or boiled vegetables.

Cook Portuguese Style Recipes At Home

Caldeirada (Portuguese Fish Stew)

Ingredients

2 onions, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced (red or green)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 laurel leaf (bay leaf)
2 lbs (1 kg) fish ( chose from various kinds, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, skate, sea bass, monkfish, hake, haddock, etc.)
6 large potatoes, sliced
4-5 saffron threads
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

In a large pot put layers of onions, tomatoes, fish, peppers and potatoes.

Continue to make layers until all the ingredients are used. Place the parsley, laurel leaf, saffron and salt on top.

Add the wine, water and olive oil.

Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. Shake the pan once in a while.

DO NOT STIR, just shake the pan.

Clams With Chouriço (Portuguese Sausage)

Ingredients

3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
7 ounces chouriço sausage, sliced
1 sliced leeks or onion
1 chili pepper, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slice, for garnish

Directions

In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chouriço until lightly browned.

Add the leeks, chili, bay leaf and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.

Add the wine, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Add the clams cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes until all the clams are opened.

Throw out any that do not open. Garnish with lemons and parsley.

Serve with bread to soak up the juices.

Portuguese Cornbread (Broa)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast
1 ½ – 2 cups bread flour

Directions

Grind cornmeal to a powder in a food processor. You may skip this step, but the bread will not be as smooth.

Mix 1 cup of powdered cornmeal, salt and water until smooth.

Add olive oil and cool to lukewarm.

Blend in the yeast. Gradually add the remaining cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, mixing constantly.

Add more flour if the dough is still sticky. Knead until firm.

Let rise in a greased bowl until double in volume.

Shape into round loaf and let rise until double.

Bake at 350 degree Fs for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Grilled Red Snapper with Parsley Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 whole red snapper (2.2 lb or 1 kg), cleaned, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, mince
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea or coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Parsley Sauce

½ cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
4 tbsp (60 mL) minced red onion
½ cup (125 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (30 mL) capers
1 garlic clove, chopped

Directions

Preheat a barbecue or broiler until hot.

Make the parsley sauce in a bowl by whisking together the oil, vinegar, onion, parsley, capers and garlic. Set aside.

Season the fish with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and brush or drizzle with oil.

Grill or broil the fish for five minutes on each side. Transfer to a heated platter, spread with parsley sauce and serve.

Portuguese Rice Pudding, Arroz Doce

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel of one lemon cut into long strips (avoid as much of the white pith as possible)
1 cup short-grain rice (arborio is a good choice)
2 cups hot milk (you can substitute some of this with cream, if you like, for a richer consistency and flavor)
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Directions

Place the water, salt and lemon peel into a medium pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and allow the water to simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

Remove the lemon peel from the water with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the rice to the water and bring it back up to a boil.

Then reduce it to a simmer and allow the rice to absorb all of the water (about 10 minutes).

Slowly add the hot milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, to the rice mixture. After each addition, allow the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next batch of milk.

Stir frequently and keep the heat at low, so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.

Pour the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.

Chill before serving.

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BrindisiSailorsMonument

Brindisi, a province in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy, is dominated by vineyards, artichoke groves and olive trees. The province is also a major sailing port for the southern part of Italy and seafood plays a big role in its cuisine. In dining tn the area’s restaurants, you will notice an abundance of dishes from the sea. Mussels, white fish, prawns and octopus are just some of the items you can expect to find on the menu.

 artichoke groves

artichoke groves

olive trees.

olive trees

vineyards

vineyards

The region is well-known for orecchiette. A type of pasta whose name comes from its shape which resembles that of a small ear and is usually served with a simple (often spicy) red sauce. Fresh vegetables, tomatoes and peppery olive oil are easily the most common local ingredients. Fava beans, eggplants and bell peppers all find their way into pastas, gratins and stews. Stuffed aubergines, lamb and pea stew and  turnip greens are a few popular dishes.

brindisifood

Great produce markets are plentiful and you will find, daily, fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood just waiting to be cooked. Olives are another essential food in the Brindisi area. You see them everywhere. Running wild along the dry countryside roads, the olive trees grow to massive sizes.

BrindisiFoodMarket

Some of the best values in Italian wine come from this sunny, dry region. Most of the wine is red, full-bodied and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Producers have focused on making great red wines from local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Bombino Nero. The two most popular and widely available wines from the province are Salice Salentino and Primitivo.

BrindisiFountain

Half of Italy’s olive oil is produced in the dry heat of the area. The warm climate and fertile soil make it easy to grow almost anything.  It is surrounded by water on three sides allowing cool breezes off the Mediterranean to moderate vineyard temperatures.

Brindisi Spa

Brindisi Spa

Located in the province is Torre Canne, a famous health spa. Several streams feed into a small lake that, over the ages, has deposited mud that is now used for therapeutic purposes. Its water springs are touted to be good for kidney and liver illnesses  While you enjoy the spa treatment, you can stay in a luxury hotel and visit the stunning local beaches.

Brindisi Fish Soup

brindisifishchowder

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs whole fish, large bones removed
  • 3/4 lb squid
  • 1/2 lb cuttlefish or octopus
  • 1/2 lb mussels
  • 8 oz clams
  • 1/2 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Chili pepper, diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices rustic bread, stale
  • Salt
  • Parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Directions

Thoroughly wash all the fish and seafood. Cut the fish into large pieces and the squid and cuttlefish into small pieces.

In a large soup pot, saute the onion and celery in a few tablespoons of oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cuttlefish and squid and, after 10 minutes, the remaining fish and shellfish.

Add the chili pepper, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle a handful of parsley and finely chopped garlic onto each serving.

Grilled Eggplant

brindisieggplant

4-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely minced, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 small eggplant
  • 3/4 cup burrata cheese, cut into small pieces

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the oil, basil, shallots and vinegar.

In another small bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the basil mixture. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Trim the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place them on a tray or a plate. Brush both sides of the eggplants with the remaining basil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Place the eggplant on the grill.  Cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn.

Using a metal spatula, carefully transfer the eggplant to warmed plates. Divide the cheese among the eggplant halves and spoon the tomato mixture over each. Garnish with extra basil leaves

Cardoons Brindisi

brindisicardoons

4 servings

Cardoons are members of the thistle family, as are artichokes, and bear a strikingly similar taste to them. Cardoons are quite fibrous and the fibers run lengthwise, like those in celery stalks, and must be stripped off. Once they have been cut, they darken quickly (like artichokes) unless put in water with added lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cardoons
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons capers in salt, well rinsed
  • 3 anchovies packed in oil, minced
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash and peel the outer layer of the cardoons, then cut them into 5 inch lengths. Cook them in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the olives, parsley, capers and anchovies.

Place the cardoons in an oiled casserole baking dish and top with the olive and parsley mixture. Sprinkle enough grated cheese and bread crumbs over the top to cover.

Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Spicy Orecchiette

brindisipasta

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (350 gr) orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb (500 gr) plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 hot chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the garlic and chili peppers for one minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with two tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until a sauce consistency is reached.

Add the chopped oregano with salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.

brindisimap

 


stewcover

Traditional meat stews can add up to 1,000 calories per serving. The calories really depend on the protein used, as fatty cuts of meat contain more calories. The sodium level can also be off the charts, providing much more than the amount recommended per day. Watch portion sizes, also.

Ground turkey isn’t always the leanest choice – it depends on which part of the turkey is ground. And, while ground turkey breast is the leanest, it can end up rather dry after cooking. The best solution is a combination of white and dark ground turkey meat which will keep the meat moist while saving on calories.

A healthy version of traditional beef stew should use 4 ounces of beef per serving while adding lots of vegetables. To keep sodium under control use a low-sodium beef or vegetable broth. Seafood is also a good choice for stew. Lentils are also a good stew ingredient because they contains both healthy protein and carbs and they are filled with fiber to help keep you satisfied.

So, take control of the ingredients and make your own delicious, healthy stews. Since it is quite cold here in the south today, the Bean and Sausage Stew is on our menu.

stew1

Seafood Stew

8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and 
thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme and basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-oz can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb frozen cooked crab claws
  • 1 lb cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf 
parsley

Directions

In a 5-quart Dutch Oven, melt butter. Add onions and 
cook, stirring occasionally until onions soften slightly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add celery, fennel, chili, oregano, thyme, basil and cayenne; stir to combine. Add wine, tomatoes, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak clams in cold water for 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer clams to the stew pot.  Cover and cook until clams open, about 20 to 25 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add crab claws, cover and cook until heated through, about 
10 minutes. Add cod and scallops. 
Cover and cook until the fish is firm, about 
5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

stew2

Easy Oven Beef Stew

Serves 6; 1 cup per serving

What makes this stew easy? Toss all the ingredients together in a Dutch oven, place it in the oven and forget about it for two hours or cook it all day in your slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean boneless round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat meat dry with paper towels. In a large plastic bag with a tight-fitting seal, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add meat and shake until well coated. Shake off excess flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke.

Add half of the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if oil begins to smoke. Transfer beef to large plate.

Repeat with remaining beef and oil. Leave the second batch of meat in the pot after browning and add the browned beef on the plate and the remaining ingredients to the Dutch Oven. Mix well.

Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is tender, stirring once or twice during the cooking time. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve hot.

stew3

White Bean and Sausage Stew

6 to 8 servings

Directions

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1/2 pound lean sweet Italian turkey sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Place on a plate and refrigerate until the beans are cooked.

Add the tomato paste and oregano to the same pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and the bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sausage is hot. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

stew4

Chicken Stew with Lima Beans and Cauliflower 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco®
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) frozen lima beans (no need to thaw)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped (1/2 – inch chunks) cauliflower (about 1/2 of a large head)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken thighs and hot sauce; saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add broth, lima beans, tomatoes, cauliflower and thyme; bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the beans are tender. Serving size: one chicken thigh and one-fourth of the stew.

stew5

Pork and Vegetable Stew

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Directions
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until the pork is tender.

Season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil and oregano and serve.


While strolling through Citta’ Della Pieve, a northern Umbrian town during the Festa dello Zafferano held each fall, you will pass shops with baskets of lilac colored crocus petals and zafferano packets. During this festival, sprays of crocus flowers decorate textile shop windows, toy shop entrances and the Gelaterie which features ice-creams and yogurts made with saffron. In the Piazza Matteotti, a young chef teaches a cooking class with saffron starring in every dish: yellow risotto, saffron bread and a dessert. Just around the corner in the Palazzo della Corgna, you’ll find the embroidery work of the local women, including textiles of yellow hues, dyed with saffron. In the covered market area, you’ll see saffron-dyed candles and even creams and soaps made with saffron.

Citta’ Della Pieve in Umbria – http://www.annesitaly.com/

Saffron, the red-orange stigmas from the center of the fall flowering crocus plant (Crocus sativus), is the world’s most expensive spice. That’s because each flower provides only three stigmas. One ounce of saffron = approximately 14,000 of these tiny saffron threads. The tiny threads of saffron must be handpicked from the flower. The yellow stamens which have no taste are left behind. This spice comes either powdered or in threads.

The ancient Greeks and Romans prized saffron for its use as a perfume. They scattered it about public spaces such as royal halls, courts and amphitheaters. When Emperor Nero entered Rome, they spread saffron along the streets and wealthy Romans made daily use of saffron baths. They also used saffron as mascara, stirred saffron threads into their wines, strewn it in the halls and streets as a potpourri and offered it to their deities. Roman colonists took saffron with them when they settled in southern Gaul, where it was extensively cultivated until the AD 271. Saffron cultivation in Europe declined following the fall of the Roman Empire. For several centuries thereafter, saffron cultivation was rare or non-existent throughout Europe. This was reversed when the Moors came from North Africa to settle most of Spain, as well as parts of France and southern Italy. Two centuries after their conquest of Spain, the Moors planted saffron throughout the southern provinces of Andalucia, Castile, La Mancha and Valencia.

During the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold and, even today, it is still the most expensive spice in the world. Unfortunately, its high price led to its adulteration which, in those times, was severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, condemned adulterers to death.

Saffron grows on the Navelli Plain in the Province of L’Aquila and is considered by many to be a major product of the Italian Abruzzo region. How a flower of Middle Eastern origin found a home in Italy can be attributed to a priest by the name of Santucci, who introduced it to his native home over 450 years ago. Following his return from Spain at the height of the Inquisition, Santucci was convinced that the cultivation of saffron was possible in the plains of Abruzzo. Nevertheless, even today, the harvesting of saffron is difficult work and great skill is needed to handle the stems without damaging the product or allowing contamination from other parts of the plant.

Italian saffron is also produced on family owned farms in Sardara, a town located in the center of Sardinia, Italy. The production of saffron on the island of Sardinia and especially in Sardara has been a tradition for centuries with more than 60% of Italian saffron being produced in this region

An essential ingredient in Risotto Milanese, saffron is also used in many other dishes across Italy. For example, the fish soup found in Marche region, uses saffron for its red coloring in place of the more traditional tomato in the recipe. This coloring property is also widely appreciated in the production of cakes and liqueurs and, for centuries, by painters in the preparation of dyes. Its additional curative powers have long been believed to help digestion, rheumatism and colds.

Copycats

American saffron or Mexican saffron is actually safflower, a member of the Daisy family and the same plant from which we get safflower oil. Although its dried, edible flowers do yield the characteristic yellow color, it has no flavor and is not suitable as a saffron substitute. Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is an honest substitute for saffron, but it is a member of the ginger family. Use turmeric sparingly as a saffron substitute, since its acrid flavor can easily overwhelm the food. Turmeric is also used to stretch powdered saffron by unscrupulous retailers. Unfortunately, there is no truly acceptable substitute for saffron. Its distinctive flavor is a must for classic dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse and risotto. If your recipe calls for saffron, do yourself a favor and use the real thing to fully appreciate the intended result.

Beyond Risotto

Eggs Stuffed with Saffron

A classic Italian appetizer that is often served with olives.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup bechamel sauce
  • 18 strands of saffron
  • ground saffron for garnish

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden color, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate saucepan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside until ready to use.

To make the stuffed eggs:

Peel the eggs, cut them in half and remove the yolks. Set the white halves aside on a serving platter.

Mash the yolks in a small bowl.

Add the saffron to the bechamel sauce and mix well. Add the mashed yolk and stir until the egg yolks are completely dissolved.

Fill eggs halves with a little of the sauce and garnish with ground saffron.

Italian Seafood Stew

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces bay scallops or sea scallops quartered, tough muscle removed
  • 6 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seed, salt, pepper and saffron; cook for 20 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, clam broth and green beans. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Homemade Saffron-Flavored Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions

Put the crushed saffron threads in a cup. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water and let stand 30 minutes.

Place the saffron water in a food processor with the 3 eggs and puree.

Add remaining ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball.

Cover kneaded dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour.

Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine: Divide dough into 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough lightly with flour on both sides. Start with the first thickness on the machine and gradually crank in steps to the desired thinness.

After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of the pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides. Place rolled pasta sheets on floured kitchen towels.

After all the pasta sheets are formed, cut the pasta into spaghetti or fettuccine on the pasta machine.

As soon as you cut the pasta, either place on a floured flat surface or hang on a pasta drying rack. Homemade pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container. Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta unrefrigerated because it contains eggs in the mixture.

Cooking Hand Made Pasta: Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not over-cook the pasta. Drain well and serve with your favorite sauce. Saffron flavored pasta is especially good with butter and parmesan cheese. It also makes a delicious side dish to Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Breasts with Saffron Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, (flattened with a meat pounder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Chives, chopped for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt, pepper and dredge in flour.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Then transfer to another plate; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add butter to the same skillet and heat until its starts to sizzle. Add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes..

Add the wine to the pan. After a minute, slowly whisk in the cream, blending completely. Add the saffron and simmer for a minute.

Add the chicken back into the pan, lower heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is done. Plate chicken, pour sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives.

Gluten Free Orange Saffron Cake

Ingrdients

  • 2 whole sweet oranges with thin peels
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large pinch saffron strands
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied orange peel

Directions

Place the oranges in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours over medium heat. Check occasionally to make sure they stay covered with water. Allow the oranges to cool, then cut them open and remove as much white pith as possible and the seeds. Process in a blender or food processor into a coarse pulp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (190 degrees C) Thoroughly grease a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, at least 10 minutes. Mix in baking powder and saffron. Stir in the pureed oranges.

Gently fold in almond meal and candied orange peel; pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a small knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Tap out onto a serving plate when cool.


Most people are creatures of habit. We go to the grocery store on the same day every week and fill our carts with the same stuff. If it’s Monday, chicken’s for dinner and Wednesday, always means spaghetti. We are comforted with knowing what to expect—even if our meals aren’t that exciting–we know what we’re going to eat.

That’s what makes eating healthier so scary sometimes. We are so used to eating a certain way that we rarely think about what we’re actually putting into our bodies. So planning a healthier diet means paying attention to what’s on your plate.

Explore these tips for eating well:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice
  • Use healthy fats in your cooking, such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Choose low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Choose lean sources of protein and don’t forget to add nuts to your meals.
  • Compare sodium in foods, especially soup and frozen meals and choose foods with less sodium.
  • Eat seafood at least twice a week
  • Pay attention to portion size.
  • Drink tea.

All you need to round out these entrees is a garden salad with Italian dressing (made with olive oil) and some whole grain Artisan country bread.

 

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Makes about 9 cups; 60 calories per cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetables fresh or frozen vegetables (about 28 ounces total)(see choices below)
  • 4 cups liquid (water, stock or broth), enough to cover
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs such as basil, Italian seasoning or other spice blends
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, if using water for liquid, otherwise to taste

Directions:

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until shimmery on medium high. Add onion, celery and carrots and stir well to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables turn golden.

While the onion-celery-carrot mixture cooks, prep the other vegetables.  It helps to keep starchier vegetables (potatoes and sweet potatoes) separate from the rest. Stir vegetables in (starchier ones first) and let them cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the non-starchy vegetables and saute a few minutes more.

Cover with liquid. Add tomatoes, dried herbs and salt. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are done.

Notes:

Vegetable Choices

Aim for 4 to 6 kinds of vegetables, varying color and shape and kind of vegetable. Use all fresh vegetables or half fresh vegetables and half frozen vegetables. Good fresh vegetables include bell peppers (red for color, green for price), turnips, fennel, rutabaga, sweet potatoes (peeled), potatoes (skins on), turnips, zucchini, bok choy, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, spinach. Good frozen vegetables include corn, green beans and green peas.

Cooking Tips:

The trick to this soup is flavor and texture. For flavor, let the onion/carrot/celery mixture cook really well, until golden. For texture, the other vegetables should be cooked just until done.

Fresh Broccoli and Red Pepper Frittata

Makes 4 servings. (serving size: 1/4 of a 10-inch Frittata) 211 calories

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fat free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and return to a boil. Cover and boil 2 minutes or until just crisp-tender. Drain well in a colander.

Wipe skillet dry with a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium; add oil, and heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook 3 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring frequently. (Note: Do not overcook peppers, as their color will start to fade.)

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and ground red pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until well blended.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add broccoli to onion/pepper mixture in skillet, and stir gently. Pour egg mixture evenly over all. Cover tightly, and cook 12 minutes or just until set. Remove from heat; sprinkle with remaining salt, and top with cheese.Place in the broiler and cook until top starts to brown lightly.  watch carefully so the top does not burn. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Italian Seafood Stew

6 servings

Serving Size: 2 cups; calories 214

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen cod or other white fish
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen shrimp
  • 1 cup finely chopped leeks
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1 pound mussels, soaked, scrubbed, and beards removed or clams
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions:

Thaw fish and shrimp, if frozen. Rinse fish and shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 1-inch pieces. Peel and devein shrimp; halve shrimp lengthwise. Set fish and shrimp aside.

In an 8-quart Dutch oven, cook leeks, fennel, celery, carrot, and garlic in hot oil about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste and Italian seasoning; cook for 1 minute. Add wine and stir until wine is nearly evaporated.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, the water, and clam juice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add mussels or clams and fish. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until shellfish open. Discard any that do not open. Add shrimp; cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until shrimp are opaque. Stir in half of the parsley. Ladle into shallow soup bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Makes 6 servings (2 cups each)

Tip

Scrub mussels or clams in shells under cold running water. Remove beards on mussels. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, combine 4 quarts cold water and 1/3 cup salt; add mussels or clams. Soak for 15 minutes; drain and rinse. Discard water. Repeat soaking, draining, and rinsing twice to rid the shellfish of sand.

 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings; Calories 275 per serving

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, capers, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Return the shrimp mixture to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and heat. Turn into serving bowl and garnish with basil.

Peppered Chicken in Marsala Sauce

Makes: 6 servings; 275 calories per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken breast halves (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala
  • Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Skin chicken. Brush chicken with oil; sprinkle black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt over chicken. Arrange chicken in a 15 x 10 -inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan, cook mushrooms in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add broth and Marsala. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Place sauce on serving plates and top with a chicken breast. If desired, sprinkle with additional pepper.

Roasted Pecan Salmon Fillets

4 servings; 265 calories per serving:

Ingredients:

  • 4 salmon fillets (5-6 oz. each)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Wedges of fresh lemon

Directions::

1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on baking sheet.

2. Combine mustard and honey, brush on top of salmon.

3. Mix topping of bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley or rosemary and sprinkle over salmon.

4. Bake at 400°F 15-20 minutes or until flaky. Serve with wedges of fresh lemon.


Sometimes, cooking for one or two may seem like it’s not worth the trouble; however, everyone needs a variety of foods to stay healthy. Homemade meals usually are more nutritious, better tasting and more economical, compared with restaurant meals. Planning makes a difference in eating healthy meals. Set a goal to plan menus for a week at a time, and incorporate your “planned-overs.” For example, making a small roast on Sunday could provide the meat for a sandwich on Monday and a vegetable beef stir-fry on Tuesday. To help plan, read your recipes ahead of time and refer to the grocery store flyers for other ideas. Organize your shopping list based on the grocery store layout. Keep a list handy in the kitchen, so jotting down when you need flour, sugar or other items is easy.

Tips

  • Cook a batch and freeze single portions. For example, make a casserole or stew and freeze individual-size servings. Then take out only the amount of food you need. Be sure to write the date and contents on packages and move older packages forward as you add food to your freezer.
  • Prepare one-dish meals. For quick and simple cooking, choose a dish that serves as the whole meal. Look for dishes that include items from several food groups, such as meats, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Healthy examples include beef, barley and vegetable stew; chicken, vegetable and rice casserole; turkey and bean casserole; and vegetarian chili.
  • Use extras wisely. Plan meals so that you can use the extra food in new dishes. For example, cook rice and use as a side dish for one meal and the remainder in a casserole or rice pudding. Bake chicken for a meal and use the leftovers in sandwiches or soup, or toss with greens, dried fruit and nuts for a salad. Or make a meatloaf mixture and bake some as a meatloaf and freeze the uncooked portion to use later in stuffed peppers.
  • An economical strategy is to buy a family pack of chicken breasts, marinate them overnight in light salad dressing, then grill them. Slice the grilled chicken and portion it into airtight freezer bags. Then, the chicken portions to make pasta, tacos, barbeque chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken Caesar salad, etc. Preparing dinner is a cinch when the chicken is already cooked!

Reduce The Number Of Servings 

Choose recipes that fit with your tastes and time requirements. Whether you’re a 20-something single person or an “empty nester couple” with grown children, you don’t need to throw out your favorite family recipes. You can adapt many of them to fit your current household size.

Try these tips to help reduce your recipes:

Choose recipes that are easy to divide mathematically.  Consult The Reducing Table, below, to help you reduce the number of servings in recipes.

• If a recipe calls for a can of beans or soup and you would like to divide the recipe in half, use what you need and either refrigerate or freeze the remaining food. Label the container with the contents and date.

• Add seasonings gradually. Sometimes you may need to add more (or less) to reach the desired flavor.

• Check for doneness of halved recipes five to 10 minutes sooner than the original recipe.

• Keep notes about what works — and what doesn’t!

Table For Reducing Ingredients

When the recipe calls for use:
1/4 cup…………….. 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup…………….. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons
1/2 cup…………….. 1/4 cup
2/3 cup…………….. 1/3 cup
3/4 cup…………….. 6 tablespoons
1 tablespoon…….. 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon……….. 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon…….. 1/4 teaspoon

Making One-third of a Recipe
1/4 cup…………….. 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon
1/3 cup…………….. 1 tablespoon + 2 1/3 teaspoons

Another key to quick, nutritious meals is to keep a variety of foods in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Whether you’re thinking about a pasta dish, salad, pizza, soup, sandwich, stew, or omelet, a well-stocked kitchen makes preparation fast and easy. In addition to lean meat, poultry, and fish, stock these tried-and-true ingredients:

Freezer

  • Whole-wheat rolls
  • Bags of frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Pre-cooked chicken strips
  • Pizza shells
  • Lean meats, poultry, and seafood
  • Frozen entrees

Pantry

  • Canned and dry beans, peas, and lentils
  • Whole-grain pasta, rice, and other grains
  • Pasta sauce, pesto, tomatoes
  • Cereal
  • Dried and canned fruits
  • Canned vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Salad dressings, oils, vinegar, and mustard
  • Dry sauce mixes
  • Jarred peppers, olives
  • Croutons
  • Whole-grain bread and crackers
  • Canned fish in water
Refrigerator
  • Dairy foods — yogurt; cheese; skim or low-fat milk
  • Eggs
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables
  • Pre-washed salads in bags
  • Light margarine
  • Pickles
  • 100% fruit juice

Spicy Cioppino

2 servings, 2 cups each

Ingredients

  • 4 small red potatoes, (1- to 2-inch diameter), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tilapia fillet, diced (about 5 ounces) or whatever fish is available
  • 4 ounces bay scallops, patted dry
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend 
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced

Directions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tilapia and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine, water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the fish, scallops, potatoes and capers (if using), return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Fusilli with Italian Sausage & Arugula

2 servings, 2 cups each

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces whole-wheat pasta, such as shells or fusilli
  • 4 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups arugula, or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, arugula (or spinach) and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid; drain the pasta. Whisk the cooking liquid and oil into the cheese mixture; add the pasta and toss to combine. Serve the pasta topped with the sausage-arugula mixture.

Baked Sea Scallops

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 8 sea scallops, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Spread, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges for garnish 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place scallops, melted butter, garlic, and shallots in a bowl. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs and olive oil. Sprinkle some under and on top of scallops.

Bake in preheated oven until crumbs are brown and scallops are done, about 11 to 14 minutes. Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Fontina Melts

Add a side of whole-wheat pasta, a salad and a glass of Pinot Noir.

 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 turkey or pork or chicken cutlets, (8 ounces), pounded thin
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1- 6-ounce bag baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Directions

Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat broiler.

Sprinkle both sides of the cutlets with flour. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cutlets and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and shallot to the pan; cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sherry and spinach; cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Carefully mound equal portions of the spinach on top of the cutlets. Transfer the spinach-topped cutlet and any accumulated juices to the pan. Top the spinach with cheese and transfer to the oven. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the melts to 2 plates. Add the butter to the pan and whisk into the juices over medium-high heat until melted, about 30 seconds. Drizzle over the melts.

Eggs for Two

This combination of eggs braised in tomato sauce served on crusty bread is unusual but delicious. You might also try it over angel hair pasta.

Serve with broccoli or broccoli rabe.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 ounce pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 slices whole-wheat country bread, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pancetta (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add marinara and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Make a well in the sauce roughly large enough to hold the egg and slip it in so that the yolk and most of the white is contained (some white may spread out).

Repeat with the remaining egg, spacing the eggs around the pan. Sprinkle the sauce with basil; cover and cook until the eggs are the desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-set. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper.

To serve, top each slice of toasted bread with an egg and sauce. 

Related Articles

 

For most Italians, the sea is never very far away. Though a relatively small country, Italy has 5000 miles of coastline—so it’s easy to understand why fish and “frutti di mare” (literally “the fruits of the sea”) have always had a special importance in Italian daily life and in regional culinary traditions. The love Italians have for fish begins early in life.  

Some of the most succulent seafood dishes in the world can be found in Italy.  Popular varieties of fish include tuna, anchovies, sardines, swordfish, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, squid, clams and mussels. Such fish and shellfish are traditionally added to stews, pasta dishes and risotto. Cioppino was developed in San Francisco by Italian-American fishermen, who prepared what they had while on their fishing boats, so they must have used local fish and seasoning.  Zuppa di Pesce or Brodetto are the Italian names for fish stews/soups from various Italian regions.

The interesting history behind Italian fish stews stretches back at least five hundred years, as it is believed that fish stew was first made in Livorno around the year 1500. As with many other Italian traditional recipes, there are various legends surrounding its creation, but two of these stories stand out from the rest.

The first legend tells of a fisherman from Livorno who lost his life at sea in a shipwreck. His children were so hungry with no one to provide for them after his death that they turned to all their neighbours for food. Everyone gave them different types of fish, with which their mother made a huge soup, adding tomatoes, garlic, oil and slices of bread – thus creating the first cacciucco (fish stew).  The second is that a lighthouse keeper created the stew. The Florentine Republic had prohibited the use of olive oil which he always used to fry his fish and, so rather than having his favorite “fritto”, he made a fish soup instead.  The most realistic explanation is that after having sold what they fished, fishermen’s families had to cook with whatever had remained unsold, thus starting the tradition of mixing all kinds of fish together. The traditional recipe calls for thirteen different kinds of fish as ingredients, but nowadays, most people use between six and eight varieties.

Entertaining at Home

I have always enjoyed entertaining and inviting friends and family over for a dinner party or informal pizza get-togethers.  I learned quickly that it is a good idea to plan menu items that allow for advanced preparation, so that I could spend time with my guests instead of cooking in the kitchen.  The menu below is an example of how most of the preparation for the menu items can be done ahead of time.  The appetizer can be breaded ahead of time and placed in the baking dishes until close to serving time.  Just before your guests arrive, you can drizzle the vegetables with oil and bake.  Actually, this appetizer tastes good at room temperature.  The lemon dip can be prepared well in advance.  I like to offer an appetizer like this one because it allows guests to eat and talk for a while before the main course.  The cook can do the same because the second course preparations were done ahead.

Much of the second course will have been completed by the time you are ready to serve. The garlic paste can be prepared ahead of time and smeared on the bread just before you put it in the oven. You can put the garlic bread in the oven (the oven will be hot and is the same temperature you used for the vegetables) while you cook the fish in the broth and dress the salad.  Serve the stew in a soup terrine, if you have one.  Just before placing the dishes on the table, I like to move the parfaits from the freezer to the refrigerator.  Put the topping and chocolate on when you are ready to serve them.  You will have enjoyed this dinner as much as your guests.

Dinner Party Menu For Four

  • Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”
  • Italian Fisherman’s Stew
  • Ok For You Garlic Bread
  • Salad of Baby Lettuces with Italian Dressing
  • Almond Mocha Parfait

First Course

Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”

A favorite in Italy, fritto misto (mixed fry) is an assortment of bite-size pieces of vegetables or other foods that are dipped in batter, deep-fried and served as an appetizer. My version keeps it healthy by using the “oven fry” method.

Ingredients

2 cups  vegetables (your pick)

  • cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • green beans, halved
  • fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • zucchini, cut into ¼ “ slices
  • frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into thirds

Batter

  • 3 eggs, beaten or 3/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil 
  • Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Cut vegetables, rinse them off and drain on paper towels.

Spray 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the eggs in a shallow dish.

In a deep wide bowl place the flour mixed with the cheese and spices.

Dip each piece of vegetable first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

Put the vegetables in the prepared baking dishes and drizzle the tops lightly with olive oil.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned, turning them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. Serve with the lemon mayonnaise sauce.

Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce

  • 1 cup low-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon) 
  • parsley

Whisk together and chill in a serving bowl.  Garnish top with chopped parsley.

Second Course

Italian Fisherman’s Stew

Halibut is a favorite fish in this dish, but you can use cod, snapper or grouper. You can substitute a cooked lobster or 1 cup of cooked crab meat or squid for any of the fish in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1  tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  onion, chopped
  • 1  carrot, chopped
  • 1  celery rib, chopped
  • 5  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1  (28-32 ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1  finely grated rind and juice of orange
  • 1  tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2  cups dry red wine
  • 2  cups bottled clam broth
  • 4  fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1  teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1  pounds firm white fish fillets, cut into 2” inch pieces
  • 1 dozen clams or mussels
  • 1  pound sea scallops, cut into halves
  • 1  pound shrimp, peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Chopped parsley

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, orange rind and juice, sugar, chile flakes, wine, clam broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.  

The broth can be prepared several hours ahead.  Cover and let sit on the stove until close to dinner time.  You can also prepare the broth a day ahead . Cool and refrigerate. Bring the broth to a boil when you are ready to complete the dish and then add the fish as indicated in the recipe.

Add roasted red peppers and stir in the fish, scallops and shrimp and simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add clams, pushing them down into the soup a little. Cover the pot and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the clams are steamed open and cooked through.

Discard any clams that do not open. Remove from heat and stir in chopped basil.
Pasta bowls work well for serving this dish; garnish with a little chopped parsley. It’s best to have a side plate for each diner to hold empty shells.

Ok For You Garlic Bread

Ingredients

 

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Italian bread baguette, cut in half lengthwise

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place garlic in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook 3 minutes and drain.

Mash the cooked garlic, oil and salt in a small bowl with the back of a spoon until a smooth paste forms. Spread the mixture over the cut surfaces of the bread.

Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake until the bread begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Slice and serve.

Insalata

Salad of baby lettuces and sliced black olives with Italian dressing

Dessert

Almond Mocha Parfait

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen low-fat yogurt, softened
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
  • 8 teaspoons Amaretto
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (8 cookies)
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-calorie frozen whipped topping
  • Grated chocolate

Combine ice cream and espresso granules; stir well.
Spoon 1/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 (8-ounce) parfait glasses or pretty stemware.
Top mixture with 1 teaspoon amaretto and 1 tablespoon cookie crumbs.

Repeat layers, ending with ice cream mixture; freeze 1 hour.
Top each parfait with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and grated chocolate.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.



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