Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cabbage

Just about every cuisine in the world has a cabbage roll dish. Meat fillings are traditional in Europe where beef, lamb or pork are used and seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. Grains, such as, rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables are often included. Pickled cabbage leaves are used for wrapping, particularly in Southeastern Europe. In Asia, seafood, tofu and shiitake mushrooms may also be used. Chinese cabbage is often used as a wrapping.

Cabbage rolls are a favorite in Polish cuisine and are called, gołąbki, which literally means “little pigeons.” My mother-in-law was of Polish heritage and liked to make this dish in the traditional way.  I have tried many recipes for cabbage rolls but they have not always been to my liking. This recipe comes about with my adjusting and readjusting the ingredients until I got to this version. Now, my husband and I really like this dish. Hope you do, also.

Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage

Braising Sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced
Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
One 26 – 28 ounce container chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Meat Filling

1 garlic clove, minced
Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 large egg, beaten to blend
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the cabbage:

With a sharp knife remove some of the core and gently remove eight large leaves from the head. You may have to cut away some of the core in stages to remove the leaves without tearing them.

Reserve remaining cabbage for another use.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Place the cabbage leaves in the boiling water and cook until pliable, about 5 minutes. Drain and place on a kitchen towel.

Using a paring knife, cut a narrow V-shape into the base of each leaf on either side of the rib in order to remove the thickest part of rib (this will make the leaves easier to roll).

For the sauce

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the red pepper, tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar; season generously with salt and black pepper.

Reduce heat and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened slightly, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and set aside.

For the meat filling

In a large bowl combine all the filling ingredients and season with black pepper. Mix gently with clean hands until incorporated; set filling aside.

To assemble the cabbage rolls:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Divide the meat filling into 8 equal portions.

Shape the filling into a log about 3″ long and 1″ wide. Starting at the base where you cut the V, place a portion of the filling meat and fold in the sides.

Roll like a burrito into a tight cylinder. Repeat until you’ve rolled the cabbage leaves.

Oil a 13 x 9″  baking pan. Place the cabbage rolls in the baking dish in rows side-by-side.

Top with the braising sauce; Cover with foil and bake the rolls until tender, about, 1½ hours.

Set aside the dish, covered, to rest while you cook the asparagus.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

This recipe is easily multiplied (each pound of uncooked potatoes yields about 2 cups mashed potatoes).

Ingredients

1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
Cold water, for cooking, enough to cover plus 1-inch
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

Directions

Scrub the potatoes well and peel them. Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water, then stir in the salt.

Cover and bring to a boil on high, then reduce the heat to maintain a low boil until the potatoes are tender and a knife moves easily through the center, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes.

In a small pan, gently melt the butter, cream and salt to taste and mix together, keep warm.

Return the drained potatoes to the cooking pot, turn the heat to medium and let the excess water cook off for a minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally.

Mash the potatoes until smooth. With a spatula, slowly turn the hot cream-butter-salt mixture into the potatoes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

Note: the potatoes can be prepared earlier and reheated in a casserole dish in the oven along with other dishes you are cooking.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Break off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and wash in cold water.

Arrange trimmed asparagus in 13 X 9 inch dish and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon zest.

Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes.

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This time of year it takes some creativity to cook with seasonal ingredients. There is plenty of cabbage in the market in December and it can easily be used for a delicious main dish. Finding ways to use cabbage is not difficult. Add cabbage to casseroles and soup or sauté it for a side dish. Don’t pass up this healthy, versatile and frugal vegetable when you see in the market.

Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are usually made with rice but I like to use orzo because it has a soft texture and gives the rolls an Italian flair. You can use any type of meat but I like the flavor sausage gives the stuffing for these rolls.

Makes 18-21 rolls

Ingredients

1 large head of cabbage placed in the freezer two days before using and then thawed. (It’s easier to roll wilted leaves and eliminates the boiling step)
8 oz pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup shredded carrot.
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon Italian pork sausage seasoning or use a combination of fennel and Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked orzo
Marinara Sauce, see recipe below

Directions

Remove as many whole leaves from the cabbage head as you can. I was able to remove 21 leaves from my cabbage. Cut out the core and discard. Chop the remaining cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced sausage. Cook until lightly brown. Place in a large mixing bowl

Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute just until tender. Add the seasonings and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Add the orzo and ½ cup marinara sauce. Mix the filling until all the ingredients are combined.

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To assemble the cabbage rolls:

In a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, spread one cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with the chopped cabbage.

Use about 1/2 cup of filling for large leaves and about 1/4 cup for smaller leaves. Place the filling on the base of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up to make a tight packet.

As you complete them, place each roll, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish.. Continue until all the filling is used up.

Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce on top of the rolls and spread the sauce to cover all the cabbage rolls.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours or until the cabbage rolls are very tender.

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Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-26 oz containers of Italian chopped tomatoes (without salt or sugar added, if possible)
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the next four ingredients. Saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan and let the sauce cook for about an hour until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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Apples

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Apple Pecan Pancakes

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Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter or oil and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and then add in the cider. Stir until just incorporated and a few lumps remain.

Jovina Cooks Italian

Stir in the apples and pecans. Let the mixture rest while the griddle heats.Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil.

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Pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn carefully and cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.

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Brush the pan with oil as needed.

Note: If you want to keep the first batches of pancakes warm while you cook the others, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter while working with subsequent batches.

Cauliflower

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Pasta with Oven Roasted Cauliflower Sauce

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • One head of cauliflower, cored and cut into tiny florets
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz thin slices prosciutto di parma (about 8-9 slices) chopped
  • 1 lb dried cavatappi pasta
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

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Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.

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Pour the  olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and mix well.Add the cauliflower florets, grape tomato halves and the chopped prosciutto.

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Mix well with a large spatula and spread out in a single layer. Roast, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Add the chopped sage and continue to roast for 10 minutes more.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Boil the pasta until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture and enough pasta water to moisten. Heat the mixture and then add the cheese.

Pour onto a pasta serving platter and garnish with additional sage leaves for serving.

Cabbage

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Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon with Braised Cabbage

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Add some baked sweet potatoes to the complete this dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup apple jelly
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine apple jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk.

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Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add salmon skin side up, and cook 3 minutes.

Turn salmon over; brush with half of the apple mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Brush with remaining apple mixture and serve.

Braised Cabbage

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ head green cabbage, cut into ½ inch thick slices
  • 2 leeks
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish with grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a skillet, over medium, heat the butter and when melted, add the leeks and cabbage.

Stir and let the leeks and cabbage wilt and soften. Add the salt and lemon juice; then stir in the cream. Reduce heat to low and let the cabbage braise for about five minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish. Grate some cheese over the cabbage before serving.

Tomatoes

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Homemade Pizza with Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 8 large vine ripe tomato slices, 1/4-inch thick, each cut in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil

Directions

Place the tomato slices on paper towels for about 30 minutes to reduce their moisture.

Adjust the oven rack to the bottom position; preheat to 450°F.

Coat a pizza pan with olive oil and press the dough with your fingers to the edges of the pan

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Brush the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place the tomato slices evenly on top of the ricotta and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.

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Bake the pizza on the lower shelf of the oven until the tomatoes have softened and the cheese begins to brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with oil and return the pizza to the oven for 5 minutes more. Let set 5 minutes before slicing.

French Beans

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Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds

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French beans are smaller and younger than common green beans and have a softer pod.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2/3 cup blanched almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.

Heat the oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add shallots to the green beans in the serving bowl, along with the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the toasted almonds and toss gently.

Garnish with lemon quarters and serve.


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Below is a dinner we had last week that makes use of “in season” produce: cabbage and Italian kale. It also demonstrates my frugal habits.

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

This dish goes well with mashed potatoes. I served Mashed Potatoes with Kale to make the dish a bit healthier, plus we like mashed potatoes mixed with greens. Swiss chard also works well. See the recipe below.

Makes 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cabbage

Meat Filling

  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sauce

  • 2 cups strained or crushed Italian tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • Half of a small onion, sliced thin

Directions

Prepare the cabbage:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer cabbage leaves. Remove the cabbage core and carefully peel 8 large leaves off the head. Blanch leaves for 1 minute (half at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels so that they dry and cool.

I saved the rest of the cabbage for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Make the filling:

Combine all the meat filling ingredients with a pinch or two of salt and black pepper.

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Make the cabbage rolls:

Form some of the meat filling mixture into a golf ball-sized rounds and place on the cooled cabbage leaves. Fold in the sides of the cabbage leaves and roll up jelly roll style wrapping the cabbage around the filling.. Repeat with the remaining leaves and mixture.

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Make the sauce:

In a casserole dish large enough to hold the cabbage rolls, combine the sauce ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so that the stuffing remains intact. Cover the dish with foil a and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover the baking dish and continue to bake for 15 minutes more.

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Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.


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Make Vegetables Taste Good

1. Use seasoning

  • Salt and pepper vegetables as they cook. Add herbs.

2. Use olive oil

  • Fat carries flavor and provides fat soluble vitamins which tend to be lacking in vegetables.

3. Don’t boil your vegetables

  • One of the easiest ways to make vegetables taste bad is to boil them. Boiling is also problematic because your vitamins end up down the drain.

4. Roast, saute or stir fry

  • Unlike boiling,  dry heat methods of cooking help add caramelized flavors to your vegetables and remove excess moisture.

5. Use good quality vegetables

  • Buy what is in season and, if possible, locally grown.

6. Use tasty condiments and garnishes

  • Add condiments to make vegetables more palatable, such as chili powder or hot sauce, honey or agave, soy sauce, lemon or orange juice, Parmesan cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, bacon, pesto, tahini sauce, yogurt sauce, spices, fruit, mustard sauce, toasted nuts or salsa.

Try some of the recipes below that are easily managed on a weeknight and offer lots of flavor.

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Bake

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the carrots and sweet potatoes to the baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.

Stir together cranberries, walnuts, orange juice, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt.

Drizzle over the partially cooked carrots and sweet potatoes. Gently stir until evenly coated.

Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices halfway through cooking.

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Roasted Cauliflower Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2-1/2 pounds), cut into florets about 1-1/2″ wide*
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Place cauliflower florets into a Ziploc gallon bag, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake to coat well and pour out onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove foil and continue roasting another 10 minutes until florets are golden on one side. Carefully turn the florets over, sprinkle with cheese and roast an additional 10 minutes or until golden all over.

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

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Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring 1″ of water to a boil over high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Place a small rack or steaming basket in the bottom of the pot.

Place broccoli on the rack in the saucepan; cover and steam over medium-high heat until bright green, about 3 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer broccoli to a serving bowl. Add pine nuts, vinegar, oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper and toss to combine.

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Braised Cabbage 

Serves 6 -8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups shredded savoy cabbage (about 1 normal-sized head)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add onion, cabbage, garlic and brown sugar to the pan.

Sauté until the cabbage is limp, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and thyme. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan.

Cook, stirring a few times, for approximately 20 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Sautéed Kale with Cannellini Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large bunch kale (about 1 pound), stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed pepper; stir until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute.

Add kale by large handfuls; stir just until beginning to wilt before adding more, tossing with tongs to coat with the oil.

Add broth, cover and simmer until the greens are tender. Add beans; simmer uncovered until the beans are heated through and liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Stir in sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


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Once you determine your holiday main course, the next decision focuses on side dishes to accompany your meal. As we sift through family favorites and long forgotten recipe books, we mentally calculate how long each dish will take to prepare and do we have enough oven, stove and refrigerator space to cook and store everything. Delicious side dishes do not need to be complicated or expensive. In fact, with a little planning, most side dishes can be made with 5 or 6 common ingredients and prepared in a short amount of time.

Choose recipes that call for in season fruits and vegetables. These generally cost less than out of season produce. Winter favorites include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, rapini, collard greens, spinach, fennel, cabbage, sweet potato, squash, yams, parsnips, kale, spinach, pomegranates, pears, clementine oranges, cranberries and apples. This way your side dishes will taste fresh.

Don’t select side dish recipes that require an oven, if you are also roasting meat at the same time. If oven space is limited, choose recipes that can be prepared on the stove top.

Create dishes that mix red, green, yellow and orange-colored fruits or vegetables to form a medley of vibrant colors. You don’t need lots of ingredients to create delicious side dishes. You need ingredients that combine well together and offer a variety of flavors such as sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Try adding fruit to bitter greens for an interesting taste sensation, or spicy chilies to sweet squash. Often, one or two different spices or herbs are all you need to bring out the flavors in your dish. If you plan to have several side dishes available, try to select dishes that are different from one another in flavor, texture and overall presentation. Create one sweet, one spicy, one sour. Your guests will love the variety.

All these side dishes will be good accompaniments for the main dishes from Monday’s post.

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Chunky Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Heat a pan with a lid or cover on medium; add diced onion and garlic; simmer until onions have turned slightly transparent (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile chop sweet potatoes into approximately 1 x 1 x 1 inch/cm chunks; add to the pan when the onions are ready, as well as the salt and cover the pan.

Allow potatoes to cook covered, for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. Uncover and mix every 5-10 minutes in between. Add rosemary, cumin and cinnamon to the pan 10 minutes after adding potatoes.

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Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Broccoli Rabe
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, lightly smashed, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded & cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe and dry on paper towels. Remove the large tough leaves, leaving just the tender leaves and flower buds.  Cut off and discard the lower part of the stems, leaving the broccoli about 8-inches long and slice into 3 or 4-inch lengths.

Add olive oil and garlic cloves to a large heavy frying pan. Over low heat, slowly sauté garlic until golden on all sides. This can take about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, tossing to coat with garlic and oil. Add tomatoes and toss for a minute or so to remove excess water from the tomatoes. Add chicken stock and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add lemon juice, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, salt & pepper.Taste for seasoning; adjust if necessary.

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Italian Rice & Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) Vialone Nano or other short-grained rice, e.g. Arborio
  • 1 pound (450 g) Savoy cabbage
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (40 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (1 liter) beef broth, stock, or water, simmering
  • ¾ cup crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Strip off and discard any blemished outer leaves the cabbage may have. Separate the rest, rinse them and shred them.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pot and sauté the chopped onion and celery. Add the cabbage leaves and continue cooking, stirring them about with a spoon, until they have wilted. Add a cup of hot broth to the pot, cover and simmer over a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice, add the remaining hot broth and crushed tomatoes, add seasoning and simmer until the rice reaches the al dente stage and the broth is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir the cheese into the rice and check the seasoning.

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Leeks & Spinach Saute

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium leeks, white and lightest green parts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a large pinch
  • 4 cups (packed) washed and stemmed fresh spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Trim the ends from the leeks. Slice the leeks across into thin rings (about 1/8-inch thick), discarding any woody stem in the center. Put the sliced leeks in a bowl and cover them with tepid water. Swish them around a bit and let them sit. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse the sand from the bowl, return the leeks to the bowl and cover again with tepid water. Lift, drain and repeat one more time, leaving the leeks in the water with the last wash.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pan with whatever water is clinging to them. Season with the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are limp and all of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very lightly golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and fold or gently stir them in with the leeks until they are wilted, about 1 minute. Add the fresh thyme and the cream and remove the pan from the heat.

Gently stir until the cream is mostly absorbed into the dish and the thyme is well-distributed. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for salt and serve.

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Creamy Fettuccine With Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat, add salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Prior to draining the pasta reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter melts add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and salt and pepper to taste; sauté 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until the liquid evaporates.

Remove the pan the from heat.  Add the hot cooked pasta, half & half and cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.  Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until needed for moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Como is a province in the northern part of the Lombardy region of Italy that borders Switzerland. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a popular tourist destination and the area contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces. Como’s climate is humid and subtropical. Winters are not long, but foggy, damp and chilly with occasional periods of frost; spring and autumn are pleasant while summer can be quite oppressive and hot.

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The most famous area within the province is Bellagio, a historic town surrounded by ancient city walls with narrow roads that run through the hills. The town’s ancient origins are visible in its Romanesque Cathedral dedicated to San Giacomo, the interior of which seems unchanged from the 12th Century. Another interesting town is Laglio that lies near the “Bear Cave” (buco dell’orso), where fossils of prehistoric bears and other remains found in the cave are displayed in the Town Hall. The annual Medieval Palio takes place at the beginning of September and is a knightly jousting contest between various province districts that is reenacted in the town of Cernobbio.

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Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian) is located in this province and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. The lake is shaped like the letter “Y” and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. Many famous people have or have had homes on the lake’s shores. The lake’s deep-blue waters, set against the foothills of the Alps, makes for a stunning view.

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The Cuisine of Como Province

Lake Como’s cuisine is shaped by the three geographic areas that make up the Como area – the lake, the mountains with their valleys and the hills of Brianza (the area between Milan and Como). The province’s cuisine is closely tied to its primary natural resource, the lake, that provides an abundance of freshwater fish. Lavarello , a popular local lake fish, is usually served fried with a squeeze of lemon. Misultitt (a type of Shad) is usually dried and preserved with bay leaves in special tin containers. Another traditional dish is Risotto al Pesce Persico (European Perch filet Risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, that is prepared with white wine, onion and butter.

Polenta is popular especially in the mountain valleys. In this area, it is common to make polenta by mixing corn flour and buckwheat flour together. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese or fish.

South of Como, the food becomes more Milanese. Popular in this region are polenta e osei (polenta served with poultry), cassoela (a stew with pork ribs and cabbage), cotechino sausage with beans and many different kinds of salami and cheese.

As far as traditional sweets and cakes are concerned, in Lake Como, you can find fritters often filled with apple and, Resca de Comm, a panettone made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise, that is baked in a cylindrical tube.

Among the red and white wines produced in the province are Rosso di Bellagio and Vespertò di Canzo. The best liqueurs are made by the Piona friars using local herbs.

Valtellina Pizzoccheri

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Pizzoccheri is one of Lake Como’s typical winter pasta dishes. It usually consists of flat short tagliatelle noodles, made from buckwheat flour that is common in the area of Valtellina in Northern Italy (on the east shore of Lake Como). The buckwheat flour gives the noodles a grayish color and they are easy to make at home. However, most supermarkets now sell boxes of dried pizzoccheri, which has helped to spread the word of this delicious recipe throughout the country and, of course, cuts down on preparation time.

The noodles are served with a mixture of greens and diced potatoes and dressed with butter, sautéed garlic, sage and Swiss Casera and Parmesan cheeses (or grana padano). There are several variations to the recipe, including substituting the cabbage with Swiss chard, spinach or green beans depending on what you have on hand. The amount of butter can also be altered to your own preference although the original recipe states that the pizzoccheri should be practically drowning in the sage and garlic-infused butter. Vatellina Casera cheese can be difficult to find outside of Lombardy, so a good alternative is Italian Fontina, which is more widely available.

For the pasta:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) fine buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) plain flour
  • About 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water
  • Pinch salt

For the pizzoccheri:

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) savoy cabbage
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 8-10 sage leaves
  • 4 1/2 ounces (125 grams) Valtellina Casera DOP or Bitto (Gruyere or Fontina can be substituted), thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 ounces (about 60 grams) Grana Padano, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the pasta:

Combine the two flours in a bowl and gradually add the water, mixing until well incorporated. Work the dough for a few minutes. It should be smooth and compact, but not dry or crumbly and it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s dry, add a little more water until it becomes smooth. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of 2-3 millimeters (1/10 of an inch). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into large strips about 7-8 cm (2.5 to 3 inches) wide then cut these into short pasta strips about ¼ inch thick. (If you have a pasta machine, I would use it)

For the pizzoccheri:

Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage and chop roughly.

Boil a large saucepan of salted water, cook the potatoes for 20 minutes and then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a separate pan and saute the garlic and sage.

Drain the potatoes, cabbage and pasta and layer in a dish with the melted butter, slices of cheese and black pepper.

Serve with Grana Padano cheese.

Risotto with Perch Fillets

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This recipe is the national dish of Lake Como and one that is used in most of the area’s restaurants. Perch is one of the most valuable species of freshwater fish because of its tender and delicate meat and the fish can be found in all the lakes of Northern Italy.

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 4 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour  for coating
  • Butter or oil for frying

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat the 4 tablespoons butter until it melts.

Add the chopped onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly until all the liquid is absorbed.

When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese.

Dredge the fillets in the flour and cook in a hot skillet in butter or oil, turning them over once, until each side is golden brown.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets.

Parmesan Barley Soup

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Barley is a healthy high-fiber, high-protein whole grain containing numerous health benefits. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain, such as couscous or rice.  Hulless barley is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common. Quick cooking barley is just as healthy and takes only 10 minutes to cook. Try adding a handful of quick cooking barley to a simmering pot of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Parmesan rinds
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-soak the barley in water to cover for one hour. Drain well and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add the diced carrots and celery. Reduce the heat and cook for another two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to coat the vegetables well.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the barley and vegetable broth, stirring to combine.

Heat for ten minutes, then add the Parmesan rinds and simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the barley is almost cooked.

Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, milk, white wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat another five minutes or until the barley is fully cooked.

Remove the Parmesan rinds and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Cutizza

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Lake Como’s sweets are mainly cakes, tarts and pies that are eaten for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Among them you can find the cutizza, a homemade focaccia made of flour, milk, sugar and lemon peel. The cutizza is a sweet bread known as the poor man’s cake because it uses only a small amount of flour. This is a very old and rustic recipe.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb white flour
  • 6-7 oz whole milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 3 eggs
  • Lemon rind
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Salt

Directions

Break the eggs in a bowl, add the flour and mix well. Add the grated lemon and milk and mix until smooth. Add the smaller amount of milk at first and then more, if needed, to make a smooth dough.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and pour in the mixture. Cook on one side and then turn over to cook the other side. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.

Variation: add some chopped apple to the mixture before cooking.

The cutizza can be eaten as a snack or as a dessert accompanied by a glass of Moscato.

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