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
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.
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
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
This side dish goes well with just about everything. I like to make extra because I can use the leftover potatoes in an omelet.
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
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.
Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad
This salad is very refreshing, especially in the winter. It has great flavor and we like it served with fish.
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.
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
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.
Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Root Vegetables, Citrus Fruit, Leeks and Onions, Greens, such as kale, Potatoes and Beets are all available in January and make great tasting meals.
Purchasing seasonal foods is a healthy and cost-effective way to approach food shopping. Grocery stores tend to stock up on these items in bulk because they are plentiful, making them less expensive for you—especially when they go on sale or offer buy one; get one free.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of celery, diced including leaves
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch scallions (green onions) or use a leek, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup half & half (cream and milk)
Garnish with chopped chives and sour cream
Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 30 minutes.
Add the broth, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree with an immersion blender.
Return the pot to the heat. Stir in the cream and heat on low. Garnish individual servings with chopped fresh chives and sour cream, if desired.
Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken Breasts
Use any herb you like. When cold nights come in, I bring my herb pots indoors, so I always have fresh herbs on hand.
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 whole fresh basil stalk, leaves removed and sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
2 bone-in, medium chicken breast halves, skinned
Salt and ground black pepper
6 very small potatoes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
¼ of a fennel bulb, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Place the chicken breasts in the prepared pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with the lemon zest and juice.
Scatter the potatoes, fennel, carrots and garlic around the chicken.
Bake, uncovered, spooning the pan juices over the chicken once or twice, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the chicken with the basil and return the pan to the oven.
Bake 10-15 minutes more or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 170°F and the juices are clear.
Beets, Red Onion & Orange Salad
Makes 2 servings
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
4 small, cooked beets, sliced
1 navel orange
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cup washed, dried, whole Bibb lettuce leaves
Soak onion slices in cold water for 10 minutes; drain.
With a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing white pith. Slice the orange between the membranes over a mixing bowl to catch the oranges and any juice.
Pour any juice in the bowl into a measuring cup. Add more orange juice to equal ¼ cup.
Whisk together the orange juice, oil, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in the measuring cup.
Place lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Arrange beets, onions and orange slices on top. Drizzle with some of the dressing and serve.
This month the market offers lots of festive ingredients in anticipation of the coming holidays. I find it is a great time to perk up your winter dishes with lots of fruit flavors. This week I picked up fennel and apples to enhance some pork cutlets and oranges to give swordfish a new look. Carrots make a great side dish and there are so many recipes you can make with hearty greens. Cranberries add a beautiful red color to breakfast cake that could easily be served on Christmas morning. Check the list above and try something new this week.
Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Orange Sauce
Swordfish is a cornerstone food throughout the Mediterranean and swordfish is not endangered anywhere around the United States. The various fish watchdog organizations all give consumers the green light to eat as much swordfish as they want, provided it was caught in North American or Hawaiian waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch gives American swordfish either a “best choice” or “good alternative” rating, depending on how it’s caught.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound swordfish or tuna fillets
¼ cup flour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
Cut the swordfish into 2 inch cubes. Salt the fish well and dust the cubes in flour. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the swordfish chunks in one layer. Sear them well on at least two sides. Give the first side 1-2 minutes, then sear other sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute each.
When the swordfish is cooked, remove it to a bowl and reserve. Add the garlic slices and sauté 30 seconds or so — the second it begins to brown, add the orange juice, zest, parsley, nuts and paprika. Toss to combine and cook 1 minute, then add the swordfish back to the pan, toss to combine and cook another 30 seconds or so. Serve at once.
Crispy Pork Cutlets with Fennel Apple Sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes. Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.
3 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the carrots, 2 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.
Cranberry Orange Breakfast Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands form the mixture into crumbs.,
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium mixing bowl, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment or on medium-low speed with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.
Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture. On low-speed (for either mixer), mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Cake can be served warm. Dust with powdered sugar for a pretty presentation.
Spinach and Cheese Pie
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried dill
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 lb. frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Melted butter or butter cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in lemon zest, dill and feta cheese into spinach mixture. Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg in a small bowl. Stir until well blended. Add to the spinach mixture. Add salt, pepper and stir well.
Working quickly so that phyllo doesn’t dry out, line the baking pan with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter after you place it in the pan. Fan the sheets out towards the edge of the pan, making sure the bottom is covered. Allow excess to hang over the sides. Spoon filling into pan. Drape remaining layers of phyllo over filling, one at a time, brushing each with butter. Brush top with butter, then neatly fold overhanging phyllo over the top, and brush with remaining butter. Bake until golden, about 1 hour. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.
The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to pasta. Adding vegetables to pasta stretches the pasta and adds more nutrients to your diet. Though cauliflower has a bland taste on its own, it is a highly regarded vegetable. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with pasta because it absorbs flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing the recipes.
According to research studies, water boiling and blanching have the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods cause significant losses of protein, mineral and phytochemical nutrients after five minutes of boiling. Instead, cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.
Since cauliflower is in season now, I try to think of a variety ways to cook this great vegetable and combining it with pasta is a family favorite. This recipe can be used with any vegetable that is in season.
Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Half a large onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8-10 sage leaves, sliced
- 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup of pureed sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
- ½ cup white wine
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
- 1 lb short pasta, preferably with ridges (I used trofiette – short, twisted spaghetti shape)
In a large skillet cook the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is tender. Add the sage and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cauliflower softens a bit. Don’t overcook cauliflower or it loses its taste and nutrients.
Add the tomato paste and wine and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomato puree and crushed red pepper. Heat gently.
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the reserved pasta water. Stir well. Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and add the parsley and cheese. Stir well and serve.
Cucumber Fennel Salad
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into thin half moons
- ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup oil cured Italian olives
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a medium salad bowl whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the dish and refrigerate until well chilled.
Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.
For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.
Following the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.
After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.
Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.
Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.
Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.
Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.
Cagliari Style Lobster Salad
Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.
- 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
- 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
- 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional
Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.
Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.
Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines
- 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
- 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste
Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.
Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.
Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.
While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.
Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.
Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola
Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup fregola
- 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
- Slices of Italian bread, toasted
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.
Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.
Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.
Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.
Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.
Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.
- 1 lb dough
- Chopped fresh tomato
- Sliced mozzarella cheese
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Sliced Sardinian sausage
- Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
- Italian green and black olives and a few capers
- Oregano and fresh basil
Spread the dough in a pan.
Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.
Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.
Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.
Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.
Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.
The holidays will be here soon and these veggies will be just right for entertaining. Pickled vegetables are a great accompaniment to a cheeseboard.
Just about any vegetable — and some fruits — can be pickled. All you need is vinegar, water, sugar, salt and some dry seasonings and herbs.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even unusual veggie choices — like Brussels sprouts, green beans, fennel, pearl onions and okra — are surprisingly good pickled.
You can enjoy them as an appetizer, a light snack or as a side to an entrée. But if you’re looking for different ways to use them, here are some suggestions:
- In Bloody Marys
- On pizza
- As a bed for grilled fish
- For an omelet side
- On a sandwich
- In a salad
What is your favorite way to serve pickles and relish?
Pickled Mixed Vegetables
I prefer to use firm vegetables for pickling.
- Cauliflower, cut into florets
- Bell Pepper (all colors), cut into chunks
- Carrots, cut into diagonal slices
- Celery, cut into diagonal slices
- Fennel, cut into small chunks
- Green Beans, trimmed but left whole
- Radishes, cut into thick slices
To Make 2 Quarts
Fresh raw vegetables from the list above to fill 2 quart size mason jars (about 6-7 cups). For this batch, I used carrots, cauliflower, fennel, green beans and celery.
- 4 cups vinegar (White Distilled or Apple Cider)
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
Prep the vegetables.
Bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil in a small pot.
Divide the garlic and whole spices among the jars and then add the vegetables, packing them in. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.
Using a funnel, carefully pour the hot liquid into the jars, making sure to submerge all the vegetables, pressing down on them with the end of a wooden spoon.
You may be able to add a few more veggies at this point, just make sure the liquid completely covers the vegetables by at least a half-inch.
Cover and turn the jars over on the counter covered with a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes to seal the lids. Turn the jars upright and let sit on the counter to cool for an hour or two.
Place the jars in the refrigerator. These will taste good after 6-8 hours, but much better after a couple of days. Keeps for several months.
Cucumber Pickle Relish
Makes 2 cups
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Pinch crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 6 small cucumbers (about 2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cucumbers and onion and return to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the relish to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or freeze for future use.