Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: corn

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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 


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Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.

Cold  Salad Plate For 2

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Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad

Cantaloupe:

Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.

Mix the tuna salad:

Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.

Make the deviled eggs:

Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.

Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.

Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.

Corn Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Chopped parsley
  • Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below

Directions

Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.

Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips

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Lay corn tortillas out on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with chili powder. Cut the corn tortillas into fourths.

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Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.

 Summer Chicken Salad

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Ingredients

  • 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.

Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.

Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.

To serve:

By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.

Corn Cakes

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Makes 9-10 cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below

Directions

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.

Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.

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Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
  • 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Directions

Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.

Fresh Fig Tart

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.

Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.

Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.

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Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.


hot weather construction

It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers ­– all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.

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Italian Cantaloupe Salad

This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 12 Italian green olives
  • 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad

Good side for grilled meats or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.

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Spaghetti Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
  • 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
  •  2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • Basil leaves, sliced thin

Directions

In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,

Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.

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Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad

Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below
  • Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below

Directions

Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.

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Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.

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Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.

Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.

Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.

Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.

Summer Peach and Corn Salad

Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salad

  • 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
  • 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.

Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese. 

You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.

 


july

At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.

Stuffed Cucumbers

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These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons relish
  • Sweet paprika for garnish

Directions

Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.

Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.

Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Eggplant Rollatini

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Ingredients

Eggplant

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • Olive oil

Filling

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Rollatini

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.

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Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.

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Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.

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Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.

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Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder

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Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.

Ingredients

  • 12 ears fresh corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups southern field peas
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

Directions

Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.

Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.

Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.

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Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.

Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.

Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.

Tomato Tart

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan.  You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.

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Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.

Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.

Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake

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The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.

Ingredients

Simple Sponge Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour

Gluten-Free Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling

Ingredients

2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers

1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)

6 strawberries, cut into thin slices

1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin

12 whole small strawberries, stems removed

Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light rum

Directions

Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions for making the simple sponge cake:

Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:

Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.

Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the whipped cream topping:

Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.

Directions for assembling the cakes:

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.

Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.


						
						
					
		
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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

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Grilled Corn and Grilled Squash Boats

First Course

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Tomato Salad with Herbed Ricotta Cheese

Serve with crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Combine oil, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and garlic in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine ricotta and 2 tablespoons minced basil in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange the tomato slices on a platter; sprinkle with the remaining salt, pepper and torn basil leaves.

Drizzle oil mixture over the salad. Dollop ricotta mixture evenly over tomato slices. Serve.

Second Course

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Grilled Porterhouse Steak

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 porterhouse steak, about 1 1/2 pounds and 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed of excess fat
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I use Pensey’s Chicago seasoning), divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil and rub in ½ tablespoon of steak seasoning on each side of the steak. Allow the steak to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

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Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat (450°to 550°F).

Brush the cooking grates clean. Sear the steaks over direct high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.

Continue grilling over indirect high heat until cooked to your desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes more for medium rare (125 – 130 degrees), turning once or twice.

Keep the lid closed as much as possible during grilling. Remove the steak from the grill and place the butter on top if the steak. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch slices

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Italian Frying Peppers

These are delicious as a side dish for grilled steak. Extras will be great in a sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen whole Italian frying peppers
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)

Directions

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Combine all the ingredients in a large skillet with a cover. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the peppers until they soften and develop brown spots.

Turn the peppers over after they are browned on the bottom side. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Grilled Yellow Squash Boats

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, etc)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Directions

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Cut the necks off the yellow squash and reserve for another recipe. Cut each squash in half and scrap out the seeds with a spoon making a hollow in the shell.

Sprinkle the shells with salt and pepper. Fill each squash with 1 tablespoon of cheese followed by 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Drizzle each with olive oil.

Place the squash boats on the grill and close the cover. Cook until the shells are tender and the crumbs begin to brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Recipe

Dessert Course

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

I purchase hazelnut pastry and cake filling from the King Arthur.Flour Company. If you prefer, you can substitute Nutella for the hazelnut filling in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hazelnut pastry /cake filling or use Nutella
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Chocolate Frosting

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer add all the ingredients except the flour and the water. Beat the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and water and beat until smooth.

Form balls of dough with a tablespoon or a small melon scoop. Roll until rough with your hands. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. With a fork, press down on the dough balls to flatten slightly.

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Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove the cookies to the counter or a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, frost the top of each cookie with a teaspoon of your favorite chocolate frosting.

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Summer Cooler Dolan Zolan’'s painting 2011

Summer Cooler – Dolan Zolan’s painting 2011

Getting together with friends doesn’t need to be something that’s planned for days. Keep it simple and enjoy the evening. You also want to cook easy, but delicious food with a minimum of fuss. I try to make up menus that do most of the cooking on the grill and much of the preparation in advance. That way I can spend time with my guests. Make dessert easy by serving fresh fruit. It is much more refreshing than a heavy dessert and add a little frozen yogurt, if desired.

Menu One

Serve this dinner with a tray of vegetables and a creamy dip.

Pesto Flounder Packets

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This recipe is easy to adapt to seasonal ingredients. When basil is not available, use a spinach or red pepper pesto. Baking in parchment during cold weather is quite successful, but use the grilling method when the weather cooperates.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets or any white fish fillets available in your area
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lime slices

Directions

Prepare  an outdoor grill.

Cut aluminum foil into 4 pieces large enough to enclose the fillets. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each piece of foil. Place fish on top of the oil.

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Lightly spread 1 tablespoon pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and lime slices.

Seal foil packets and place on the grill. Grill 8-10 minutes or until fish are cooked.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

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This casserole can be prepared in advance and cooked when the guests arrive or cooked in advance and reheated. Tastes just fine reheated.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the bell pepper, squash and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 cups corn kernels, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Stir together for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the remaining 1 cup corn kernels in a blender and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Combine with the vegetables in the skillet.

Add the parsley and the cheese, and stir together. Pour into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Menu Two

Add some crusty bread to this dinner and you are all set.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

IMG_0029

4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 8 oz rigatoni or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves

Directions

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

In the same pan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the onions from browning.

Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

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Add the lemon zest, juice and crushed red pepper. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta cooking water. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Turn into a serving bowl and place tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top and scatter the basil over all. Serve immediately

Garden Salad

IMG_0028

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Sliced radishes and black olives to taste
  • 4 cups torn garden lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Vinaigrette, recipe below

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and add a little more dressing, if necessary.

Italian Vinaigrette

Yields: ¾ cup

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk the first seven ingredients together. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Menu Three

IMG_0009

Add a Tomato Salad to complete this menu.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Grill the sausage over indirect heat and the potato packets over direct heat. Saves lots of cleaning up in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs Italian Sausage
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil. Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve with the potato mixture

Potatoes, Bell Peppers and Onions

5-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges, boiled until barely tender
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the mixture on a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Fold foil around the potato mixture and crimp the edges to seal.

Grill directly over high heat, rotating the packet several times, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes


celebrating-fathers-ep1-box-cover-mcbc0160517007030206-20160517153551

Father’s Day can be a great day for the whole family. Plan a family event, getting everyone in the family together for a fun day. Since the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not celebrate Dad’s special day outdoors with a delicious family BBQ?  Of course, you will want to choose foods your Dad enjoys. The recipes I picked for this menu are easy to do and most of the preparation can be done a day before, so you have plenty of time to spend with Dad.

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Beef & Shrimp Kebabs with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 – Recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound filet mignon (beef tenderloin), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons steak seasoning, divided (I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 wooden or metal skewers 6 inches long

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using.

Place the shrimp in one bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 3/4 teaspoon steak seasoning and toss again.

Place the beef in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add  1 1/4 teaspoons steak seasoning and toss again.

IMG_0007

Thread the beef and shrimp on the skewers, alternating beef and shrimp.

Prepare an outdoor grill for moderate heat. Oil the grill grates. Place skewers on the grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until the steak is cooked medium rare and the shrimp turn pink, turning the skewers over once.

Italian Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

To prepare the salsa verde: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside to let the flavors develop.

IMG_0001 (2)

Summer Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lbs small to medium red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice from the jar
  • 1/4 cup minced pickles
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot of water.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices. Place in a bowl and pour the pickle juice over the warm potatoes and let sit for one hour.

Add the pickles, celery, onion and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add salt if necessary. Add the parsley and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for a few hours.

IMG_0001

Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked and cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the uncooked corn kernals, tomatoes, onion, celery, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the salad to marinate. Serve chilled.

100_0640

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • Refrigerated pie crusts (or your favorite pie crust mix) for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sugar

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other pie thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Fit one pastry crust into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cover with the top crust and flute the edges. Make several slits in the crust with a knife.

Brush the top crust with the milk 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 the drips).



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