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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tortellini

 

Planning what to cook based on what is in season can bring out the creative cook in you. Bell Peppers, Spinach, Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Tangerines, Radishes, Mangoes, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Squash, Blueberries and Carrots are all in season this month. With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what to buy.

What I do is think about what kind of recipe and what type of meals I want this week. Then, I look for the ingredients to match. For example, a soup would be good for dinner and the leftovers are good for lunch. Greens was beautiful in the market now, so a soup with greens added would be good to make. Also we will need is some delicious bread to go with it.

This thinking can apply to salads, light dinners and special entrees. Also, I like to take advantage of sales. For example, packages of pita bread were “buy one package and get one free” this week. Pita is a versatile bread to have on hand and they also make delicious and healthy chips.

Tortellini Soup

When I finish grating a piece of Parmesan cheese, I save the rind in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I add one to the soup pot for added flavor.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh escarole, spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

Directions

Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

2 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
2 anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad

1 carrot, peeled
2 cups lightly packed torn Boston or Bibb lettuce

Directions

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor; puree until smooth. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.

Using a vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons from the carrot. Toss together the carrots and lettuce in a bowl. Add some of the dressing to greens and gently toss. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)

Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls

For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

12 oz center-cut boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut lengthwise into 2 strips
4 cups fresh raw spinach leaves, stems removed, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 cup cream cheese with onion and chives, if available, or regular cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil.

Mix together the cream cheese, garlic and spinach until well blended then season with salt and pepper.

The mixture will be firm.

Season the salmon strips with salt and pepper and spread each fillet strip with the spinach filling.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go.

Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the pinwheel from unrolling. Place the rolls in the prepared dish.

Repeat with the remaining salmon strip. Sprinkle the rolls with the lemon juice.

Bake the salmon rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)

2 servings

Ingredients

8 oz boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoons za’atar (Middle Eastern spice)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 cup pita chips, recipe below
1 cup sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks

Directions

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Oil the grill grates.

Coat chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with za’atar.

Cook turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total.

Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.

In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, remaining oil, oregano, garlic and pepper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the grilled chicken, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, romaine and pita chips.

Pour the reserved dressing over the salad mixture, add cheese and toss gently to coat.

Homemade Pita Chips

Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.

Ingredients

1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
Olive oil
Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.

Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix.

Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.

Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.

Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large zip-lock bag until needed.

Warm Blackberry Sauce

This sauce is great to have on hand as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or plain pound cake.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, washed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch.

Add the water, maple syrup,lemon juice and berries.

Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.

Transfer the sauce to a serving dish. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Botanically known as Myristica fragrans, the nutmeg tree originated in Banda, the largest of the Molucca Spice Islands of Indonesia. In the first century A.D., Roman author Pliny speaks of a tree bearing nuts with two flavors. Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome fumigated with nutmeg before his coronation. In the the sixth century, nutmeg was brought to Constantinople by Arab merchants. In the fourteenth century, half a kilogram ( a little over a pound) of nutmeg cost as much as three sheep or a cow.

Since the 1500s, several European countries sent people to retrieve this precious spice. The trip was so difficult that two out of three fleets of ships did not make it back and, those that did, often returned damaged. Despite the travel conditions, Holland, England and Portugal fought to dominate the nutmeg market. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac and have curative effects; people believed that it could cure the plague. The three European powers fought for a long time, until the Portuguese withdrew from the fight to concentrate their efforts in the South American colonies. The Dutch and British finally came to an agreement: the Dutch would have the exclusive rights to the sale of nutmeg and in exchange the English would be given a small island in North America, now known as Manhattan.

The Dutch waged a bloody war, including the massacre and enslavement of the inhabitants of the island of Banda, just to control nutmeg production in the East Indies. In 1760, the price of nutmeg in London was 85 to 90 shillings per pound, a price kept artificially high by the Dutch, who voluntarily burned full warehouses of nutmeg in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the Spice Islands until World War II. The British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and most notably Grenada, where it is the national symbol and is emblazoned on the country’s red, yellow and green flag.

The nutmeg tree is a tropical evergreen that grows to about 12 m (40 ft) and can reach as high as 20 m (66 ft)., with oblong egg-shaped leaves and small, bell-like light yellow flowers that give off a distinct aroma when in bloom. The fruit is light yellow with red and green markings, resembling an apricot or a large plum. As the fruit matures, the outer fleshy covering bursts to reveal the seed. The seed is covered with red membranes called aril, the mace portion of the nutmeg. The nut is then dried for 2 months, until the inner nut rattles inside the shell. It is then shelled to reveal the egg-shaped nutmeat which is the edible portion of the nutmeg. Second-rate nuts are pressed for the oil, which is used in perfume and in the food industry.

The bark of the tree is a dark grey-green which produces a yellow juice which oxidizes to red. It is thickly branched with dense foliage and tough, dark green leaves about 10 cm (4 in) long. It prefers the rich volcanic soil and hot, humid conditions of the tropics. Nutmeg is propagated by seeds in nursery beds and, after about six months, they are transplanted to the fields. It takes five years for the trees to flower. Fruit bearing occurs after 15 years and the trees continue to bear fruit for about fifty years. A single mature tree produces up to 2,000 nuts per year. The fruit is often collected with a long pole with a basket attached (resembling a lacrosse stick), to pick the fruit from the trees. In Indonesia this is called a gai gai. When the fruit is harvested the seed is removed, then the mace from the seed. The mace is flattened between boards and the seeds dried until they rattle, when they are shelled. Nutmeg is not one spice, but two. Mace is also derived from the nutmeg fruit.

In Western cuisine, nutmeg and mace are more popular for cakes, crackers and stewed fruits; nutmeg is sometimes used to flavor cheese sauces (fondue or Béchamel sauce). The combination of spinach with nutmeg is a classic and nutmeg is often found in Italian stuffed pastas, e. g., ravioli and lasagna.

nutmeg_1

Whole nuts are preferable to ground nutmeg, as flavor deteriorates quickly. Whole nuts will keep indefinitely and can be grated as needed with a nutmeg grater. Store both ground and whole nutmeg away from sunlight in airtight containers.

Tortellini en Brodo

(Traditional Filled Pasta in Broth)

Servings 4

6 cups homemade or store bought low sodium chicken broth

For filling

  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 7 oz ground lean pork
  • 7 oz finely chopped prosciutto
  • 3 ½ oz ground turkey breast
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • nutmeg

For pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the tortellini filling:

In a pan, melt the butter then add ground pork and turkey breast. Cook for about 15 minutes, then add chopped prosciutto and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Once cool, add the grated cheese and one egg. Mix until soft and smooth. Add a pinch of salt and nutmeg.

This is the classic tortellini filling, but there are many variations: you can use Mortadella instead of prosciutto, beef instead of pork or chicken instead of turkey.

For the pasta:

Prepare the pasta dough by thoroughly combining the eggs, flour, salt and olive oil. Let rest under a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes. Then roll out into a thin sheet on a pasta machine.

To shape the tortellini, cut the sheet of dough into horizontal slices and then cut them vertically, so that you have ¼ in squares. Place a tiny amount of filling at the center of each square and fold into a triangle, sealing the edges. (If the pasta is too dry, brush the edges with water.)

Squeeze the ends of the triangle together with the point facing upwards and place the corners on top of one another and press until they are sealed. Place them on a lightly floured kitchen towel. Repeat with the rest of the pasta. After the tortellini are shaped, let them rest for a couple of hours before cooking, so they harden.

In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Season the stock with salt and pepper, add the tortellini and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Ladle the tortellini and some stock into soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ricotta & Spinach Malfatti

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onions, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian whole, peeled tomatoes
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Malfatti:

  • 4 pounds spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

For Sauce:

In a large saucepan, the heat olive oil, then add the garlic and onions. Cook, about 3 to 4 minutes,. Next, stir in the celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 3 more minutes, then add the canned tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the flame and simmer until the carrots are tender. Mix the sauce with a hand (immersion)  blender or any appliance that can easily purée vegetables. Finish with chopped basil and season to taste. Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the malfatti.

For Malfatti:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in spinach and cook for about 2 minutes, until leaves turn bright green. Drain quickly and cool them in an ice water bath to preserve the color. Drain well. Spread over paper towels to dry. Once dried, finely chop and set aside.

Drain the ricotta in a sieve if liquid is present. In a large bowl, mash ricotta with a fork. Stir in the eggs, 3/4 cup of Parmigiano, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add chopped spinach to the mixture. Stir well.

Boil a large pot of salted water.

With a sieve or flour sifter, sprinkle the flour on a large cutting board. Form some roundish, walnut-sized or larger ovals of the spinach mixture and roll them briefly over the flour. Prepare the remaining malfatti. in the same manner.

Gently place the malfatti in the salted boiling water and as soon as they float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon to a warm buttered baking dish. If the first batch of malfatti are lukewarm by the time you are done boiling all of them, put the baking dish in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes.

Pour a plentiful amount of the warm tomato sauce on top of the malfatti, add some Parmigiano and basil to garnish and serve them on warm individual plates.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Butternut Squash in Butter and Nutmeg

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and seeded (about 1 large one)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut peeled and seeded squash into 1-inch cubes.

Spray a baking sheet or dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place squash on baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until very tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a serving dish or bowl.

Melt butter ina  small saucepan over medium-low heat, until butter turns a nut-colored brown, about 4 minutes– don’t burn it!

Pour over squash, toss to coat and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Chicken Tetrazzini

A traditional Italian baked pasta, with chicken, cheese, sherry and nutmeg.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/3 cups half-and-half
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 cups (1 pound) cooked boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with flour and toss to combine. Add broth and half-and-half; cook, stirring often, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in sherry, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in chicken.

Combine cooked spaghetti and chicken mixture; toss gently and spoon into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart baking dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Baked Italian Donuts

Recipe photo

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup drained ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar

Directions

Beat butter, egg and sugar together in an electric mixer. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter ingredients alternating with the milk and ricotta. Fill two greased donut pans, about 2/3 full (my pans were purchased from King Arthur). Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes depending on size.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar before serving.


Summer Squash Basics

When European explorers came to the America’s, squash was one of the 3 major foods the native Indians used, along with beans and corn. Europeans had never seen them before, so they thought they were melons. Squash seeds have been found in Archeological digs in Mexico that date back to between 9000 and 4000 B.C.  Columbus brought squash seeds back to Europe following his explorations in the Americas.

There are many varieties of summer squash, including zucchini, crookneck, sunburst, yellow and patty pan squash. Summer squash is picked in the summer before it has ripened, whereas a winter squash is picked when it is fully ripe. Summer squash is eaten cooked, grilled or raw. Even the skin is edible in summer squash.

Zucchini comes from the Italian Zucca that means squash. Though squashes didn’t originate in Italy, it is believed that the Italian name was adopted because the Italians are credited with developing this food. The zucchini as we know it wasn’t used in this form until the late 1800’s in Italy, probably near Milan, because many of the early varieties are named after nearby Italian cities.

Zucchini is simply an elongated, cylindrical, usually green variety of summer squash. There are three varieties of zucchini: Elite, Senator and Spineless Beauty. The Senator and Spineless Beauty are both hybrids and take less time to harvest, on average a week less than the Elite Zucchini.

Yellow squash belongs to the summer squash family along with the zucchini and scallop squash. Its pale yellow fruit is prized in a variety of dishes from stir-fries to roast vegetable recipes. It produces heavily throughout the summer months, with each plant turning out several squashes a week at the peak of production. Harvesting the yellow squash at its pinnacle of ripeness ensures it is tender yet flavorful, as overly ripe squash is tough and unappetizing.

Crookneck squash are typically yellow with bent or “crooked” necks. They are not as popular as zucchini and straightneck squash because they are not as easy to package and ship. Breakage can occur at the neck during harvest and transportation. Examples of crookneck squash include Destiny II, Dixie, Gentry, Medallion, Meigs, Prelude II and Supersett.

Straightneck squash are among the most popular varieties of squash because of the ease in harvesting and transportation, compared with crookneck squash. Examples of straightneck squash include Cougar, Enterprise, Fortune, Golddrop, Lemon Drop L, Liberator III, Lioness, Multipik, Monet, Seneca Prolific and Superpik. Straightneck squash can typically be harvested between 40 and 50 days after the first fruit appears. Most have a large bulb that tapers down toward a thin neck. The typical color of straightneck squash is yellow, but some are a light green.

When selecting patty pan squash at the market, look for squash that are regularly shaped, without bruises or nicks. Steer clear of any with discolored areas or moldy spots. If you’d like to steam or roast the patty pans whole, choose smaller squash, as they’ll cook more quickly and thoroughly. However you decide to prepare them, a pound of squash should serve nicely as a side dish for two or three people.

White Bush Scallop squash  is pale green in color. This tender squash, also referred to as Patty Pan squash, makes a delicious basis for stuffed squash. Similar to other summer squashes, White Bush Scallop squash is low in calories and contains potassium and vitamin A.  Mature squash is generally more nutrient-rich than when it’s immature. Because of its mild taste, a variety of fillings work well with scallop squash.

What to Look For: Look for summer squash that are firm and heavy for their size; the skin should be brightly colored and blemish-free. Because they are harvested earlier, smaller squash are more tender than larger ones and have thinner skins; choose squash that are less than eight inches long.

How to Store: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to four days; do not wash until ready to use.

Basil-Topped Grilled Summer Squash

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Combine basil, pine nuts, oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. 
  3. Coat both sides of squash slices with cooking spray.
  4. Grill the squash until browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pesto.

Tip: To toast pine nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Zucchini Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Add minced fresh jalapeño, if you want more spice.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds small zucchini, cut into lengthwise slices about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup thinly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the peel from lemon with a vegetable peeler, making sure not to include any white pith. (Reserve the lemon.) Cut the peel into thin slivers. Add to the boiling water and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl. Add oil, pepper and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high or place a grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.
  4. Oil the grill rack or a grill pan. Grill zucchini slices, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Arrange the zucchini on a platter and drizzle with the reserved lemon dressing. Serve sprinkled with almonds, cheese and the lemon peel.

Make Ahead: Prepare through Step 4, cover and refrigerate the zucchini, lemon peel and dressing for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tips: Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin curls or slivers off a block of hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano. To oil a grill rack, oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

Tortellini & Zucchini Soup

Serve this soup with a slice of multigrain baguette and a spinach salad.
6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 9 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen tortellini, whole wheat or spinach-cheese
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Directions:

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots and onion; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add tortellini and tomatoes and simmer until the tortellini are plump and the tomatoes are beginning to break down, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir vinegar into the hot soup just before serving.

Zucchini Tomato Frittata

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 3 medium (1 pound) vine ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion, zucchini, and thyme; cook, covered, stirring often, until tender but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, and cook until all the liquid in the pan evaporates. Season with salt and pepper; remove skillet from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and cheese, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over zucchini, gently lifting zucchini to allow eggs to coat bottom of pan. Arrange tomatoes in an overlapping pattern on top.
  3. Return skillet to medium-low heat, and cook until sides are set yet still slightly runny on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Place in oven, and cook until the center is cooked through when tested with a wooden skewer, and the tomatoes are browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven; gently slide a heatproof spatula around the edges and underneath to loosen from skillet. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 pounds zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup ricotta

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Brush two rimmed baking sheets with oil. Arrange zucchini in a single layer on sheets and brush tops with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast zucchini until tender and lightly golden in parts, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine according to package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add oil, lemon zest, and zucchini and toss to combine. Serve pasta topped with ricotta.

Tomato, Bocconcini, and Zucchini Pie

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped shallot, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 small zucchini, 7-8 ounces, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick half moons
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, plus cherry tomatoes for garnish, if desired
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces bocconcini (small mozzarella cheese balls)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Whole Wheat Pastry, see recipe below
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 large egg yolk

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and liquid has been released, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Halve one-third of the tomatoes. Stir halved and whole tomatoes, cheeses, basil, lemon zest and flour into shallot-zucchini mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet. Drizzle crust with remaining tablespoon oil.
  4. Spread with filling leaving a 3 inch border. Fold in sides of crust, slightly overlapping and over filling. Refrigerate until cold, about 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk milk and egg yolk in a small bowl. Brush crust with egg wash. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pastry

Makes enough for 2 pies. Remember to roll this out thinly so that it doesn’t become too bready.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Directions:
Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar, and allow to sit until the mixture is creamy, about five minutes in large bowl of mixer. Beat in the egg and the olive oil using the paddle attachment. Combine the flours and salt, and stir into the yeast mixture.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for a few more times, just until the dough is smooth-do not overwork it.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently knead a couple of times, and cut into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball without kneading it. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for five minutes. Then roll out into thin rounds, as directed in the recipe above.
If not using the second piece of dough right away, freeze the dough for another time.

Rosemary Chicken and Summer Squash Brochettes

Serves: 2.  Can be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (1 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts halves (cut into 6 pieces)
  • 3 small patty pan squash or yellow squash, cut in large dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper,cut in large dice
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut in large dice
  • 4 metal skewers

Directions:

  1. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken, onion, red bell pepper and squash; toss. Let stand 10 minutes; toss occasionally
  3. Alternate 3 chicken pieces with vegetable pieces on each skewer.
  4. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are just tender, turning often, about 10 minutes.

You can enjoy foods at a picnic and still walk away with your shorts buttoned. It just means making the right choices—and no, you don’t have to limit yourself to corn on the cob and watermelon. Just skip (most of) the worst choices; the best ones are often just as satisfying.

Choose: Veggies with hummus. Fill up on vegetables first. You can have a full cup of sugar snap peas for 60 calories (0 grams of fat). Add 2 tablespoons of hummus (50 calories, 3 grams of fat) and you have a fiber-rich snack for just a little more than 100 calories.

Choose: A hot dog is a lower calorie meat choice. Enjoy one on a roll with your favorite toppings (with lower-cal toppings like mustard, relish or just a little ketchup) and you’ll come out around 300 calories, 17 g fat.

Choose: Coleslaw can satisfy a craving for something creamy for far fewer calories (83, with 3 grams of fat per cup). Low-cal cabbage is also a rich source of isothiocyanates, compounds that amp up the body’s natural detoxifying enzymes.

Choose: A frozen fruit bar (100 calories, 0 grams of fat) or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream: 140 calories, about 5 grams of fat.

Choose: Light beer.  A 12-ounce bottle generally has a little less than 100 calories. Or go for the best choice of all: zero-calorie flavored seltzer or water.

How To Plan a Healthy Picnic:

Take Advantage of Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables

The more colorful produce you add to your menu, the healthier the meal.  Choose brightly colored summer fruit such as peaches, berries, cherries and watermelon.  Bring some simply grilled vegetables (use a low-fat salad dressing for a marinade) such as corn, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms and red peppers.

Crunchy Appetizers & Low Fat Dips

Pack your cooler with a variety of crisp, raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, celery, asparagus tips, cherry tomatoes and radishes. Take along a nutritious dip such as hummus, salsa, fat-free bean dip, or low-fat yogurt with herbs and spices.

Take a Second Look at Salads

Potato salad, pasta salad, tuna or egg salad… although they carry the word salad in their name, it does not mean they are calorie controlled, or heart healthy choices! Instead of mayonnaise, use dressings made with less oil and more vinegar to save lots of calories.  Using salad dressings that contain acidic ingredients such as vinegar or citrus instead of mayonnaise not only cuts fat but helps keep foods safer at room temperature.  When making salads use whole grain pasta; try a brown rice salad or whole-wheat couscous salad. Combine cherry tomatoes with green beans and whole-grain pasta and add a little pesto for a nutritious salad that travels well.  Your best bet – use lots of salad greens, cooked beans and raw veggies to make a true salad that will fill you up with fiber without the extra calories.

Add Some Whole-Grains to Add Some Fiber

Breads, rolls, and starchy salads can pile on lots of calories. So always check the food labels to make sure you are making reduced calorie choices when selecting your starches.  In addition, make them whole grain for added nutritional value, as whole grains have additional nutrients and fiber.

Main Dishes can be Healthy & Light (and not necessarily fried)

Skip the fried chicken, and make a variety of wrap sandwiches.  They’re easy, portable, and fun for the whole family.  Start with whole grain wraps and fill them with healthy stuffings such as grilled vegetables, lean cold cuts (turkey, ham, roast beef or chicken with low-fat cheese), grilled chicken, hummus and cucumbers.  Be sure to add lettuce, tomato and other veggies to your wraps for added fiber.  And use mustard, low-fat mayo, or other light condiments to save calories.

Lighten Up the Grill

Buy 93% lean ground beef for burgers (ground turkey breast and veggie burgers are great options too).  Choose from a variety of reduced fat, nitrate-free or turkey hot dogs. Top off your selections with low-fat cheese.  You can also grill skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, or any type of fish for a light and nutritious meal. You will save lots of calories with these heart healthier choices.

Better Beverages

Beat the heat with plenty of ice water, sparkling water, unsweetened iced tea, and an assortment of low-calorie beverages.   Save your calories for the food, and rely on calorie free drinks to hydrate you and quench that summer thirst.  You can mix seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice or any fruit juice for just a touch of flavor without too many calories.

Sweet Indulgences

A colorful fruit platter or fruit salad is sure to satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth. Don’t forget watermelon. If you must have cake. cookies, brownies, or cupcakes, keep the portions small.  

Here are some ideas for your next picnic menu.

Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp  

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds cooked shrimp

Directions:

Place garlic and oil in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.  Transport in a container with an ice pack.

Lighter and Leaner Pimento Cheese                                                                                                                     

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup finely grated Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup finely grated low-fat mozzarella
  • 2/3 cup plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 celery ribs, cut into 4-inch pieces
  • Garnish: paprika

Directions:

In a medium bowl, add the Cheddar, mozzarella, yogurt, chives, salt and pepper, green and red peppers and jalapeno. Stir well to combine. Spread 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each celery rib. Garnish with paprika.
Note: Store remaining pimiento cheese mixture in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Garden Fresh Tortellini Salad

8-10 Servings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen spinach tortellini
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 head broccoli (1 pound), broken into florets and tender stems sliced
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into ¼-inch slices
  • 3 leeks (white part and 2 inches green), well rinsed, dried, and cut into thin julienne
  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into julienne
  • 1 large sweet yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into julienne
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

1. Cook the tortellini in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Remove from boiling water with a large strainer. Drain thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Keep water boiling and add the broccoli florets, stems, and carrots.  Cook just until tender. Remove vegetables with a large strainer. Drain and combine with the tortellini.

3. Blanch the julienned leeks 1 minute in the boiling water; drain. Add the leeks, red and yellow peppers, and fresh basil to the bowl with the pasta and vegetables; toss to combine.

4.Combine the dressing ingredients and add the thyme, orange zest, and salt and pepper.

5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve slightly chilled.

Sweet Potato Muffins

12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
2. Add the sweet potato chunks to a pot of boiling water and boil for about 15 minutes. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor or mash well with a fork.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, applesauce, sugar, canola oil, and vanilla. Add in the mashed sweet potato and mix again. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
5. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
6. Remove the muffins from the oven. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Watermelon Squares in Campari                                                                                                                                     

Campari is a bitter, red, aperitif from Italy. It compliments the sweet taste of the watermelon.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

One 5- to 6-pound watermelon, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup Campari (or any Aperitifs of choice)

Directions:

  1. Using a very sharp knife, slice the rind from the bottom of each watermelon half. The halves will now lay flat on a cutting board.
  2. Working from top to bottom, trim the rind from the watermelon flesh in 4 cuts, creating 2 large squares. Cut each square in half to make 4 smaller squares. Cut the squares vertically into thirds. Rotate counterclockwise and repeat the cut. Rotate once more counterclockwise and cut into thirds again.
  3. Serve in large paper cups with 2 tablespoons of Campari drizzled over the top

Mason Disick Eating

Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Years ago, Italians often took three hour lunch breaks and ate mutli-course meals.  As times have changed, it is more rare for Italian families to gather at the table during lunch and have a full home-made meal. Italy’s economical situation is such that many mothers have had to take on full-time jobs, children are in school until mid-afternoon and most people do not have time to go home during lunch time.  Typically, people working in offices have a 1-hour break and eat lunch at a bar or pasticceria, that offers foods to go, such as fresh made sandwiches, prepared salads, or square slices of pizza or stuffed focaccia.    Italian sandwiches aren’t multi-layered, American style sandwiches but, usually,  just  simple focaccia bread with a few lean slices of prosciutto, some sliced tomatoes with mozzarella or pecorino cheese.  Italian pizzas are very thin. have limited toppings and are usually vegetarian.   Bread without butter and salads are also very common at lunch. Pastas are also popular and usually full of vegetables.  One exception is on Sundays, many families will have a large, 2-3 hour lunch and often eat this meal out in a restaurant.

As a child growing up in an Italian-American home, I remember Sundays were pretty much reserved for family. My father would take us to visit our grandparents or other relatives while my mother prepared the Sunday meal.  Sunday lunch was really dinner but held early in the afternoon. After my grandmother died, when I was quite young, my grandfather would often join us for Sunday dinner. As my children were growing up. I tried to make meals an important time to be together and we kept some of the traditions built around meals. Lunch, however, was lunch – a quick meal. Through the years I have gravitated toward lighter and healthy selections for lunch.

Antipasto

My favorite food for lunch is soup, so I keep a number of containers in the freezer to pull out when I feel like soup for lunch.  Salads or typical items found on an antipasto tray are also a favorite.

Below are two soup recipes that are substantial enough for lunch and two salad recipes that I hope you will enjoy.

        Tortellini Soup with Escarole

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-32 oz. cartons low sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 bunch escarole (or 8 cups spinach) washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1-9 oz. pkg. fresh tortellini
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

Escarole is a leafy green vegetable and member of the chicory family, along with frisée, endive and Belgian endive. You can find it in the lettuce department of your supermarket.

Directions

In soup pot, heat oil and saute shallots for two minutes.

Add both containers of chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Add tortellini, return to boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer about 5 minutes.

Add the escarole and simmer until the greens are wilted.

Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve soup with shaved Parmesan cheese strips.

Lentils are a small but nutritional member of the legume family and are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Lentil colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black

Lentil Soup

  • 1 lb. dried brown lentils ( about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup medium pearl barley
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1-16 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cover the lentils with water in a large bowl.  Let soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.

Heat oil in a large soup pot and add garlic, onion, celery, carrots and potato.

Cook, stirring several times, for 10 minutes.

Add water, chicken broth, lentils and barley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Check the lentils and barley, to see if they are tender, after 45 minutes.

Add tomatoes, oregano salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Salads

My favorite salad is made of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

4 servings

  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick

    Tomato Mozzarella Salad

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly-ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Alternate fresh mozzarella slices with sliced tomatoes, overlapping, in a circular design on a serving plate.  (See photo)

Tear fresh basil leaves and sprinkle liberally over the slices. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Just before serving, drizzle with top-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Chickpea Salad

4 servings

  • 1/4 cup slivered red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1- 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 8 ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Chickpeas are a legume used in many Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Round and tan colored, chickpeas have a mild, nutty flavor. They are also known as garbanzo beans.

Whisk olive oil and lemon in a salad bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill.

Serve over tender lettuce leaves (such as, Bibb).

I like to top this salad with leftover shrimp or grilled tuna.  Roasted red peppers are also a good addition



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