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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: escarole

Artist Pete Rumney

It has been very cold the past few weeks in most of the country, including the south. Warm casseroles and spicy dishes can warm you up but you don’t have to turn to macaroni and cheese for that to happen. Combining healthy foods with lots of flavor can do it for you. Try these recipes for a start.

Escarole and Italian Sausage Casserole

I save the ends of the parmesan cheese in a bag in the freezer and use them to flavor soups and stews.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 pound escarole, approximately 2 heads
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
1 lb cheese and parsley Italian sausage (or regular Italian sausage), sliced into half-inch pieces
1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
Parmesan cheese rind
Fresh black pepper

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored. Cut off the stem ends, wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and drain. Cut the leaves into two-inch lengths.

In a large Dutch Oven, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden but not brown. Add the escarole, salt and red pepper.

Cover and cook over moderate heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the escarole to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, onion, fennel bulb and sausage to the pan; cook until the sausage is browned, stirring frequently.

Add the broth, Parmesan rind, escarole and beans.

Cover; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Beef Burgundy

Like other stews, Beef Burgundy, tastes best when made ahead so the flavors have time to mingle. Serve with noodles, rice, mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash.

Roasted carrots make a nice side dish.

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour or arrowroot powder
1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 lb mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1-2 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic head, crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon is lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Break into smaller pieces.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and melt.

In batches, in single layers, sear the beef in the hot pan for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Remove the seared cubes with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Add onions the garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour or arrowroot over the onions and stir until no dry flour remains. Whisk in the wine, tomato paste and anchovy paste until combined.

Add the bay leaves, mushrooms and thyme to the pan.

Add the beef and bacon and enough beef broth to come almost to the top of the beef.

Place the pan, uncovered, into the oven and cook until the meat is tender, 3 ½-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth, if needed, to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Huevos Rancheros

Just a note here that this recipe is my version and not an authentic Mexican Huevos recipe.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
2 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
2 tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

Prepare the tortillas:

Heat the oven to 150° F. Place a pan large enough to fit the tortillas in the oven to heat.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil.

One by one heat the tortillas in the pan, a minute or two on each side, until they are heated through, softened and pockets of air bubble up inside of them.

Then, remove them to the pan in the oven to keep warm while you cook the sauce and the eggs.

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in the same skillet and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until tender. Add the salsa, tomatoes, chipotle and roasted red peppers.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Return the heat to medium, so that the sauce is bubbling slightly.

Crack 4 eggs into the sauce in the skillet, cover and cook for about 4 minutes until the egg are almost firm.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle each egg with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another minute to let the cheese melt and to finish cooking the eggs.

To serve:

Place a tortilla on a serving plate. With a large spoon place two eggs and half the sauce on top. Repeat with the second tortilla and eggs. Serve immediately.

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World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. Experts from all over the world came together to promote the importance of spreading knowledge of the world’s numerous types of pasta. This organization uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.

Everything from encouraging consumers to try new pastas to providing important health information is part of their mission. Every country is encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way, while sharing the logo of the official organization and participating in the global strategy of World Pasta Day. One of the best ways to celebrate World Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite pasta at home. Here are a few of mine.

Stuffed Shells

3-4 stuffed shells per serving.

Ingredients

6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21-22 shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound (2 bunches) fresh spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce

Directions

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the leaves into thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.

Add the greens, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted.

Cover the pan and simmer until the leaves are very tender, about ten minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooled, cooked greens.

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the dish with foil.

Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.

Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

8 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ cups pasta water
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise the heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl.

Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Serves 2-3

Salt to taste
8 ounces penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large zucchini, about one pound
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.

Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.

Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.

Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.

Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or Ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the Burrata cheese.

Pasta Roll-Ups

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Two 28-oz containers whole tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 dried lasagna noodles
Two 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Two 15-oz containers ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add the ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink.

Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from the thawed spinach and place in large bowl.

Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up.

Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.


Garlic Chicken with Peppadew Salsa

2 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup plain fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bone-in chicken breasts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a baking dish that will just fit the chicken breasts.

Combine the butter and garlic in a small microwave bowl. Heat on high for a minute or until the butter melts.

Pour into a shallow bowl and cool.

Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper in another shallow bowl.

Dip each chicken piece, one at a time, into the melted garlic butter.

Transfer to the bread crumb mixture and turn until coated on all sides.

Arrange the chicken in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle on any of remaining melted butter over the breaded chicken.

Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Peppadew Salsa

Peppadews are sweet peppers from South Africa and are usually found in the mixed olive section near the deli in a supermarket.

Serves 2

6-8 Peppadew peppers, cubed
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for at least ½ an hour before serving.

Sautéed Escarole with Toasted Pine Nuts

Ingredients

1 large head escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Sea salt to taste

Directions

After the core is removed, slice escarole into ribbons just over an inch thick. Wash escarole in several changes of water.

Dry well in a salad spinner.

Heat a large, deep frying pan, add the pine nuts and toast in the dry pan until the nuts start to brown, shaking the pan all the time the pine nuts are toasting. Pour onto a plate and reserve.

Add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and heat for a minute.

Add escarole, a handful at a time, turning the leaves over each time you add more.

Saute the escarole. turning every few minutes, until it is wilted and soft.

Season to taste with sea salt and sprinkle pine nuts over. Serve immediately.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients

8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. Add pecan flour and mix until a dough forms.

Scoop the mound of dough into the center of a sheet of plastic wrap.

Using your hands, roll dough into an approximate 2-inch diameter cylindrical log; wrap and refrigerate dough until chilled and firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated for several day.)

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the chilled dough into approximate 1/3-inch thick slices and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until light brown around the edges.

Cool on the baking pans for 15 minutes, then slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to finish cooling (cookies will firm up as they cool).

 


 

To make really good tasting chicken soup, you need a rich tasting broth. I usually start with the remains of a whole 4 lb chicken that I have either cooked on the grill or in the oven. Remove as much meat as you can, reserve 2-3 cups for the soup and use the remainder of the chicken meat for other dishes. To make the broth even richer, roast the chicken bones in the oven.

Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Spread the bones in a large roasting pan and place the pan in the oven on the lower rack and roast the bones until deeply brown, 45-60 minutes. Transfer the bones to a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Spoon the fat from the juices in the roasting pan and discard. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When browned bits begin to sizzle, pour in 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the pot with the roasted bones.

Add the following:

2 scrubbed carrots, cut in half
1 onion quartered or 1 bunch of scallions
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf

Directions

Add these ingredients to the stockpot with the roasted bones and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Remove and discard the large bones and vegetable pieces. Strain the stock in a fine mesh colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the souppot.

You can add more seasoning later depending on how you will use the stock. You now have a clear, flavorful stock to make some great soups.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 medium poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup celery, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
1 cup sweet onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
14 oz container chopped tomatoes, no sugar or salt added
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups okra, trimmed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
Toasted tortilla strips (see recipe below) and cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions

Roast the poblano peppers over a grill or under the broiler. Cool and remove the skin. Chop and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and add the garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper.

Cook over low heat until tender.

Add the chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir well. Add the chicken broth and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans,okra, plum tomatoes and diced poblano peppers.

Lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked chicken and heat.

Serve with toasted tortilla strips and cheddar cheese as a topping for the soup.

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into thin strips; place in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake about 6 minutes or until crisp but not brown; cool and use to add to the soup.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 cup homemade chicken broth, recipe above
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup cooked noodles, optional
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot.

Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add cooked noodles, if using and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

½ yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups chicken broth, recipe above
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup diced, cooked spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, the drained cannellini beans and the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the sausage, salt and escarole.

Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


 

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

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

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

Tortellini Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

2 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

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

Salad

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

Directions

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

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

Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls

For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

The mixture will be firm.

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.

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

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

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

Homemade Pita Chips

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.

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

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

Warm Blackberry Sauce

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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


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On these busy nights before the holidays, I like that I have a few homemade soups and homemade rolls or bread in my freezer. They are easy to defrost and heat and can be on the table in no time at all. This may be a quick dinner, but it is both nutritious and delicious.

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Italian Escarole Bean Soup

This is one of our family’s favorite soups. I can remember my grandparents making this often and it seemed to be my grandfather’s favorite lunch. If you would like to make this soup vegetarian, it is easy to do. Swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili) for the dried sausage.

Ingredients

  • ½ onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cups no salt added chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup chopped dried spicy sausage/salami
  • 1 cup short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the Italian seasoning and soaked and drained beans. Heat for a minute or two and add the broth.

soupandbread2

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Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the pasta, re-boil, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes more.

soupandbread4

Add the dried sausage, salt and escarole. Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sourdough Ciabatta Bread

sourdough1

I always have sourdough starter in my refrigerator that I keep in a crock, so it always available for baking. You will find that this bread will not puff up much in the oven. It will stay quite flat, like a slipper, hence its name (ciabatta means slipper in Italian). Ciabatta is one of Italy’s most delicious breads and it goes so well with soup. I like to make Ciabatta with a sourdough starter because it adds a nice tang to the bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sourdough starter removed from the refrigerator the night before baking and placed in a covered bowl
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment combine the water, olive oil, yeast, sourdough starter, 1 cup of the flour and the salt. Stir in the remaining flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is the consistency of drop-cookie batter. Transfer to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny. The dough should be on the slack side, but not oozy; it needs to be able to hold its shape.

sourdough2

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces. Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place the loaves on a baking sheets dusted with flour and cornmeal. Cover with a damp towel.

sourdough3

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately an hour. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.

Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

sourdoughcover


 

 

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As the weather cools, there’s nothing better than filling, warming soups loaded with a variety of gorgeous fall vegetables. The foundation of onion and carrots is enhanced with chunks of squash, potatoes and strips of hearty greens in a broth infused with herbs and spices. Here are a few easy, to make soup recipes, using seasonal ingredients for you to try. What is your favorite fall soup?

soup1

Autumn Chowder

Serves: 4

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 ears corn
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large pot on medium, heat oil. Add celery, onion and bell pepper and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir until coated and thickened, about 45 seconds.

Cut corn kernels off the cobs, reserving cobs. Add corn cobs, broth, milk, coriander and thyme to the pot. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cobs.

Add corn kernels and sweet potato. Continue to cook until sweet potato is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

soup3

Hearty Greens and Pasta Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion , chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots , chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 3/4 pound) , roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch escarole (about 1/2 pound) , stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound dried bow tie (farfalle) pasta
  • 1 (3-inch) Parmigiano-Reggiano rind , plus grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/4 pound baby spinach

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more. Add carrots and 8 cups water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard, escarole, pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until broth is flavorful and greens and pasta are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from soup then ladle into bowls, garnish with grated cheese and serve.

soup2

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed pumpkin 
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Lightly coat an unheated large saucepan with nonstick cooking spray. Add olive oil; heat over medium-high heat. Add leeks and garlic; cook and stir until leeks start to brown, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pumpkin, broth, pepper and cloves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Transfer half of the pumpkin mixture to a blender or food processor; cover and blend or process until smooth. Repeat with the remaining half of the pumpkin mixture. (Or use an immersion blender directly in the saucepan.) Return all of the pureed mixture to saucepan.

Stir in the milk, water and honey; heat through, but do not boil. Serve warm garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.

soup4

Brown Rice Chicken Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 3 medium carrots , chopped
  • 2 stalks celery , chopped
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 whole boneless chicken breast , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch of your favorite greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collards) thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil and add onion, carrots and celery and cook about 8 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add broth, water, rice, chicken and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender.

Remove bay leaf and stir in greens and continue cooking until wilted and tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add parsley, salt and pepper.

soup5

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots (about 4 )
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leek or chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Two 14 1/2 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • Sour cream

Directions

In a large covered saucepan cook squash, carrots, and leek in hot butter over medium heat about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and thyme. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Cool slightly.

Place one-third of the squash mixture in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until almost smooth. Repeat with remaining squash mixture. Return all of the mixture to saucepan. Or use an immersion hand blender.

Add white pepper and nutmeg; bring just to boiling. Add half-and-half; heat through. If desired, garnish each serving with sour cream.

 Note To My Readers

My blog, Jovina Cooks Italian, has reached a milestone. I now have 3000 followers who have the blog emailed to them on a daily basis. Thank you all for reading and commenting on my posts. I am truly appreciative.



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