Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: carrots

Besides a wide selection of spring vegetables, my market had American raised grass-fed, organic lamb on sale. Lamb is traditional for spring and it is tender at this time of year. I think lamb benefits from a simple marinade with lots of fresh herbs added. Grass-fed lamb has a sweet, clean taste with the flavor of herbs and grasses eaten on the pasture. It is never greasy and the texture is firm and tender.

One of the best ways to cook lamb chops is to grill them. They cook quickly — just a few minutes per side — and are best cooked to medium-rare, with an internal temperature of 120 degrees. Once you take the chops off the grill, let them rest a few minutes. They’ll continue to cook and the temperature will rise a few degrees.

Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops, about 1 ½ inches thick, as much fat as possible removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 lemon, cut in half

Directions

Place the lamb chops in a glass dish with a cover. Add the oil, garlic, rosemary, oregano and black pepper. Toss the lamb in this mixture.

Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Add the salt to the lamb chops and place them on the grill. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or to taste.

Remove the meat from the grill to a serving plate and squeeze the lemon juice over the lamb. Let rest five minutes before serving.

Cucumber Yogurt Salad

3-4 servings

Ingredients

2 large cucumbers
4 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
Half a sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon agave syrup
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half. Remove the seeds with a spoon and slice the cucumbers.

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, minced onion, garlic, dill, vinegar, agave, salt and black pepper.

Add cucumber and feta cheese to the yogurt mixture and toss until combined well.

Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Roasted Beets and Carrots

4 servings

Ingredients

3 large beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 sprig fresh rosemary
kosher salt and black pepper
Balsamic Glaze with Figs

Directions

Heat the oven to 375° F. Toss the beets, carrots, oil, honey, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in a one quart baking dish. Cover the dish with foil.

Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze before serving.

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Looking forward to spring!

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In my area asparagus, Florida plum tomatoes, celery, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, arugula, spinach, beets, strawberries, raspberries and herbs are all in season. So, while I was shopping this week, I decided to take advantage of the good prices for the asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. I would have bought beets and carrots also but my friend has a great garden and he shared some of his bounty with me.

Stuffed Artichokes

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This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 lemon, halved
2 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 tablespoon diced pickled pepper rings
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Directions

To prepare the stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Toss and set aside.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon halves into the water. Cut off the artichoke stems and make sure the artichokes are level so they do not tip over in the baking dish..

Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 inch off each artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed called the choke.

Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointed ends from outer leaves of each artichoke. Wash the artichokes well with running water. Let the water run into each leaf.

I once had an embarrassing moment when I served this dish and a guest had a fly in one of the leaves.

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Rub a lemon half over all the cut parts of the artichoke. Holding the artichokes over the bowl of stuffing, stuff the choke cavity and in between the leaves with the breadcrumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in a baking pan or casserole dish just large enough to fit the artichokes.and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Squeeze the lemon juice from the halves and add it to the water. Cover the pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 11/2 hours, or until tender and a knife slides easily into an artichoke and a leaf pulls out easily.

Remove from the baking dish and set on individual serving dishes.

Bucatini with Spring Vegetables

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2 servings

Ingredients

6 ounces dried bucatini pasta (thick spaghetti)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions

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Trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Weigh the asparagus and set aside 8 oz. Reserve the rest of the asparagus for another recipe. Cut the 8 oz of asparagus into two-inch lengths.

In a large pot cook pasta according al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain. Return pasta to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss until well combined; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of oil.

Add asparagus and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until bright green. Add cherry tomatoes,olives, basil, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce. To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Pass with lemon wedges, if desired.

Springtime Pizza

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough
24 very thin asparagus
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced.
Salt & black pepper to taste

Directions

Snap off the bottom ends of the asparagus.

Mix the ricotta with the basil leaves and a little salt.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly oil a pizza pan.

Stretch the dough to cover the pan and brush with oil, making sure to coat edges well. Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the dough.

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Scatter spoonfuls of ricotta over the dough and sprinkle with the shallots. Place the tomato slices over the cheese and arrange the asparagus in a spoke pattern over the tomato layer.

Sprinkle with the olives and black pepper.

Bake the pizza until browned, about 20 minutes.

Beet Salad With Blue Cheese

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 medium beets
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 orange, minced
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
2 thin carrots, shaved
6 cups baby greens
1/2 crumbled bleu cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the tops and tails from the beets.

Place the beets in an ovenproof casserole dish with 1/4 cup of the raspberry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the honey and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add water until the liquid covers the beets halfway.

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Cover the dish and bake for about an hour (longer if beets are larger). The beets should be tender throughout when pierced with a knife.

For the dressing:

Whisk the shallots, remaining raspberry vinegar and honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking. Stir in the orange zest.

While the beets are still warm, peel and cut them into eighths.

Cover a serving platter with the greens. Arrange the beets, carrots and cucumber slices on a platter and scatter the bleu cheese on top. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Ingredients

2 refrigerated pie crust sheets for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature

In large bowl combine:

2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour, all-purpose flour or other pie thickener
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the sugar with the pie thickener in a large mixing bowl. Add the fruit, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to combine the sugar and fruit.

Fit one pastry sheet into the pie pan and place pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the filling into the pie shell.

Place the second pastry sheet on a cutting board. With a pastry cutter the sheet into 12 even lengths.

Place 6 strips on top of the pie filling and weave the second 6 over and under the strips on the pie to create a basket weave look.

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Spray the strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


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Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.

Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) "The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus"

Heinrich Leutemann (1824-1904) “The burial of Alaric in the bed of the Busentinus”

An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.

Cosenza

Cosenza

In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.

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The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.

The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.

Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The south Italy, Calabria, locale food - soft sausage nduja, peper, tomato, cheese

Soft sausage nduja, chili peppers, tomato, cheese

The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

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The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.

Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).

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Recipes To Make From Cosenza

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Pickled Eggplant

Serve with Calabrian Bread

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.

Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.

Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.

In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.

Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.

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Pane Calabrese

Ingredients

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil
Cornmeal
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.

Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.

Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.

In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400  degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.

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Lagane E Cicciari

Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water

Directions

Add the salt to the flour and mix well.

Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)

Roll the dough to form a long log

With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.

Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.

Cook as directed below.

Chickpea Sauce

Ingredients

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.

Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.

Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.

Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.

Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce

When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)

Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.

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Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
Olive oil
Breadcrumbs
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.

Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.

Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.

Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.

In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.

Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.

Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.

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It is a gray and rainy day here – just perfect for a soup dinner. I also know I have a turkey carcass in the freezer that was leftover from the holidays and it is time to put it to good use.
I also save small amounts of leftover vegetables in the freezer in little ziplock bags. These little bags are perfect for adding to soup recipes and they don’t require additional cooking.

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Of course, almost any ingredient that you like can go into a soup pot, but I usually try to vary them, so that it doesn’t seem like the same old soup. In this soup recipe, I used farro instead of rice or pasta. Farro is hulled wheat that has been used in the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice in Italian recipes.

Hearty Italian Turkey Soup

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For the stock

1 roasted turkey carcass, broken in pieces, plus any additional bones
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 celery stalk tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Water

Directions

Place the turkey carcass in a very large soup pot. Add the other ingredients and add enough water to just cover the turkey bones.

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Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubbling simmer, partially cover the pot and let the stock cook for two hours.

Remove the pot from the heat. With tongs take the turkey bones out of the stock and place them in a wide bowl to cool. Strain the stock in a colander covered with cheesecloth.

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This recipe makes about 12 cups of stock. I also had about 2 cups of meat from the bones that I chopped and set aside.

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For the soup

12 cups turkey stock
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cups canned
3 large carrots, diced
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup pearl onions (frozen are great-no peeling)
1 cup cooked, diced asparagus
2 cups cooked, diced green beans
2 cups cooked baby lima beans
2 cups cooked peas
2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat

Directions

Rinse the soup pot out and pour the strained stock into the pot. Add the water, salt, carrots, tomatoes and farro.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until the farro is tender. Taste one of the grains to be sure.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt, if needed.

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The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article on how we waste food in America. They noted that the average four-person family spends about $2,000 a year on food that ultimately ends up in the garbage. Throwing away leftovers or unused produce that goes bad in the refrigerator is very wasteful. Being frugal and using what you have is smart and will certainly save you lots of money.

Keeping to my theme from last week of planning meals so food is not wasted, I wanted to share with you how I came about making this dinner for us. I don’t always recycle leftovers into new dishes as I have written about in earlier posts, but I do sometimes think about what will go well with the leftovers that I have on hand or how I can use produce that is still in my refrigerator.

A few weeks ago my market had a special on white/red/purple baby potatoes – buy one 3 lb. bag and get one free. I always try to take advantage of these deals, if I like the produce or product.

I had some of the baby potatoes left after making the Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/01/11/what-is-in-season-in-january/) and the Easy Skillet Potato recipe: (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/) that I wrote about in earlier posts.

Last week, I made Carrots Agrodolce and we had about half of the recipe leftover. (See link: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/).

The next step was to plan what would go well with the potatoes and the carrot dish.

I shop at a Publix market and every week they email me their circular. I use it to plan my shopping list and meals for the week. I saw a great buy this week on organic chicken – buy one package and get another free. Don’t see that too often. So chicken was on the menu and I decided it should be buttermilk oven fried chicken – one of my favorites.

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Potatoes keep awhile but not forever. I separated the baby purple potatoes from the others because I thought they would make an attractive salad to go with the chicken.

Purple Potato Salad

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Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds small (baby) purple potatoes
3 scallions, sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the scallions, celery and remaining ingredients and mix well.

Drain the potatoes. Rinse in cold water and cut into thin slices.

Place the warm potatoes in the bowl with the dressing and toss well. Chill until serving time.

Oven Fried Buttermilk Chicken

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Ingredients

5-6 pieces skinless chicken, bone-in or boneless
1 cup buttermilk
2 dashes hot sauce
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling on the breaded chicken

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a zip lock bag. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and add to the bag. Marinate for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Turn the bag occasionally to evenly distribute the buttermilk.

In a shallow bowl, blend the flour with the seasonings. Place the eggs in a second shallow bowl and the Panko crumbs in a third shallow bowl.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and drain.

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Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mix to coat all sides, shaking off any excess flour. Next, dip each piece in the eggs. Then in the bowl of Panko crumbs, gently press the crumbs into the chicken to coat evenly.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place each chicken piece on a greased rack set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the breaded chicken pieces with paprika.

Bake boneless chicken for 30 minutes and bone-in chicken for 45 minutes or until the chicken is crispy and a meat thermometer registers 165°.

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February is not quite spring and the market selections still look like winter in most areas of the US, unless you like to buy produce from South America. However, that is not eating what is is season. So still plentiful are winter squashes, celery, leeks, fennel, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, citrus fruit and apples. Since I live in the south, spring vegetables are starting to appear but I try to keep in mind what most readers can find seasonally at this time of the year. Here are some recipes for what you can cook with these seasonal ingredients.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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To make this dish into a main entrée add a 1/2 cup cooked rice or quinoa to the filling ingredients before the second baking. This makes a great side dish for pork chops.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil and place the squash halves in the baking dish, cut side down. Place the squash in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and turn the squash halves upright and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the squash and divide the cranberries and pecans equally and fill the squash. Add 1/2 an inch of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil

Return the squash to the oven and bake for 50 minutes more or until tender.

Easy Skillet Potatoes

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This side dish goes well with just about everything. I like to make extra because I can use the leftover potatoes in an omelet.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb small new potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the potato slices across the bottom of the skillet.

Cook without stirring for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom. Turn the potatoes over with a wide spatula and spread them out in the skillet.

Sprinkle potato slices with the garlic, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly brown on the bottom.

Serve immediately.

Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad

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This salad is very refreshing, especially in the winter. It has great flavor and we like it served with fish.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 celery stalks, cut on the bias
Half a cucumber, peeled, sliced into quarters and cut on the bias
Quarter of a red onion, diced
Half a green bell pepper, sliced and cut on the bias
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut on the bias
8-10 Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite Greek or Italian salad dressing
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Combine all the vegetables in a serving bowl and mix. Add the olives, feta cheese and salad dressing; mix well.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with the oregano and refrigerate for several hours or until serving time.

Carrots Agrodolce

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Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet) and the recipe comes from the Venetian-Jewish culinary tradition. Agrodolce is made by using sour and sweet elements, traditionally vinegar and sugar. Sometimes, additional flavorings are added, such as wine, fruit (raisins) or even chocolate.

This dish goes well with grilled meats.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

10-12 oz carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (optional)

Directions

Cut the carrots in half crosswise, then slice into lengthwise sticks, stack the carrots on top of each other and finely slice into matchsticks or shred on the large holes of a grater.

Place the carrots, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the honey and mix. Add the vinegar, pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir until there is a glaze coating the carrots, about 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, if desired. Place in a serving dish and serve at room temperature.

Sautéed Fennel and Leek

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This side dish goes well with oven roasted chicken, grilled fish or sausage.

If you want a heartier side dish, add one peeled baking potato, sliced thin, to the fennel in the skillet and cook along with the fennel before adding the remaining ingredients.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, top removed cored and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 large leek, tough greens removed cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add the fennel (and potato slices if using), cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add leeks and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste; cook 10 minutes more.

Stir in lemon zest and butter; adjust seasonings and serve.

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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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Manish writes

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