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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fennel

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. This series continues with the country of Greece.

Plagia, Ikaria Island, North-Eastern Aegean Islands

Before it became known as a “Blue Zone”—a region of the world where people tend to live unusually long and healthy lives—the island of Ikaria, Greece, was unknown to most Americans. Ikaria is where the majority of the people live to be well into their 90’s.

In the past few years, Ikaria has received considerable attention from scientists and journalists who want to learn the secrets of its long-living residents. Food clearly plays a large role in the Ikarians’ longevity: The Mediterranean diet they follow has been linked to lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and—most recently—heart disease. Although, we, Americans, can’t adopt all aspects of the Greek-island lifestyle, we can incorporate some of the eating patterns and dietary traditions practiced there. And, the best part of “eating like a Greek” is  that the food is delicious.

Ikarians regularly dine on potatoes, greens, olives and seasonal vegetables. Vegetables are a big part of every meal and they are prepared in a healthy way—served raw in a salad or roasted with olive oil, rather than fried.

The majority of people in Greece eat a salad as an appetizer before the main course. This way, their appetite is significantly reduced by healthy ingredients.

Shellfish and fish are abundant in their cuisine, all of which tastes great over pasta with lemon and olive oil or in a souvlaki-style flatbread wrap with vegetables. Ikarians also eat smarter snacks—like raw vegetables and protein-rich dips made from Greek yogurt, beans or lentils.

Ikarians typically have a late morning breakfast comprised of goat’s milk, yogurt and or cheese, fruit, herbal tea or coffee, whole grain bread and local honey. At lunch, salads made of beans, legumes and potatoes, along with cooked fresh garden vegetables are standard fare and prepared with generous amounts of olive oil. Locally-caught fish may also be served and Ikarian red wine typically accompanies the meal. Meat is eaten just a few times per month. Ikarians eat a late lunch and it is usually followed by an afternoon nap, a practice that many Ikarians still follow and which results in a restful and stress free rest of the day. Quiet leisurely late afternoons and a heart-healthy routine greatly reduces the risk for heart disease. A light dinner of bread, olives, vegetables and wine is followed by evening visits with neighbors before bedtime.

Ikaria is the Mediterranean Diet in all its aspects, including the ways in which locally produced fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food and community are all integrated in ways that support physical, emotional/ mental health, relationships and the environment.

“Eat Like a Greek”

Greek Lentil Soup

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 large red onions, coarsely chopped, about 2 cups (500 mL)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound (500 g) small brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped or pureed tomatoes
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh or dried whole chile pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar
  • Raw red or white onion for serving

Directions

Coarsely chop one of the onions. Place in a large, heavy pot, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, covered, over very low heat until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir.

Rinse the lentils in a colander. Add the lentils, tomatoes, sage, oregano, bay leaf and chile pepper to the pot, and toss all together for a few minutes over low heat.

Pour in enough water to cover the contents of the pot by 3 inches. Raise heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for one hour, or until very tender.

Season to taste with salt. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar just before serving.

To serve: Remove the bay leaf, oregano and sage leaves and discard. Slice the remaining onion. Sprinkle a few onion slices over the top of each soup portion. Drizzle in additional olive oil and vinegar if desired.

Briam – Baked Vegetables in Olive Oil (Island of Ikaria-Greece)

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Chef Bill Bradley, R.D.

Briam is an oven baked dish of fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and an optional feta cheese. It is one of the most classic dishes of Greece.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into large, thick strips
  • 4 small or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3-4 small zucchini, ends cut off and cut into large pieces
  • 2 onions, cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large Dutch oven or baking dish, mix together all the ingredients except the feta cheese. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 1 hour and stir. Re-cover and bake for another hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, stir in the feta cheese and serve immediately.

Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Koula Barydakis

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, yeast, oregano, sugar, salt, olive oil and water in a bowl. Knead until the dough is soft (at least 5 minutes).

Cover with a warm, moist towel and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour).

Spread dough on a baking (cookie) tray, pressing lightly so that it is flat and even.

Oil the dough. Make little cavities throughout the top of the dough by pressing down with your fingers.

Place olives and rosemary in the cavities.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Serve hot.

Chicken Salad Greek Style

Recipe and photo from GAEA.

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bite-sized broccoli florets
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Directions

Using a rolling pin, glass jar or mallet, pound and flatten the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, sauté the chicken breasts until golden brown, about 1 minute each side.

Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the chicken rest, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Slice thinly.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook until slightly softened, about 1 minute.

Place the fennel, oranges, cherry tomatoes and avocado to a large salad bowl.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken slices to the salad bowl. Drizzle dressing on top and gently toss all of the ingredients together. Serve.

Baked Seafood Orzo with Kalamata Olives

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 6

Orzo is one of the most popular Greek pasta shapes. In Greek, it’s called kritharaki.

Directions

  • Salt
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (good quality canned are also fine)
  • Pinch of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine, plus one cup if using whole, unshelled mussels
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 pounds mussels in their shell, or 2 ½ cups shelled, frozen mussels, defrosted
  • 2 cups cleaned, shelled small fresh or frozen and defrosted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 chop chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F / 175C.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the orzo and simmer until al dente. It should be a little underdone.

Drain, transfer back to the hot pot and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

While the orzo is boiling start the sauce:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide pot or deep skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add 3 of the 4 chopped garlic cloves and stir.

Pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add the wine. Simmer until the alcohol has cooked off.

Add 1 cup of hot water, the star anise and hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the sauce over medium heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the olives to the sauce five minutes before removing the pan from the heat.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the seafood:

If using mussels in the shell, make sure they are cleaned and well-washed.

Steam them in two inches of wine in a wide pot with the lid closed, over high heat, until they open.

You can add herbs or garlic if you want to the steaming liquid, before adding the mussels.

Remove and strain in a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pot and add the shrimp and remaining garlic.

If you are using shelled mussels that have been defrosted, drain them and add them to the shrimp.

Stir over medium heat until the shrimp start to turn pink. Remove.

Toss the mussels and shrimp, the reserved steaming liquid, and the pan juices from lightly sautéeing the shrimp into the tomato sauce.

Stir in the oregano and parsley. Remove the star anise.

Oil a large baking dish, preferably ovenproof glass or ceramic. Place the orzo in the baking dish and mix in the sauce thoroughly.

Pour in any remaining olive oil.

Bake, covered, for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the orzo is fully cooked. Remove, cool slightly and serve.

Tahini-Walnut Phyllo Flutes

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tahini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups finely ground walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • Greek honey for serving

Directions

Whip together the tahini and sugar at high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes.

As you whip the mixture, drizzle in the water. It should end up being the consistency of peanut butter.

Using a wooden spoon or whisk, stir in the cinnamon and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Lightly oil two sheet pans.

Open the phyllo and place horizontally in front of you.

Cut three stacks of three-inch strips and keep them covered with a kitchen towel and a damp towel on top.

Take the first strip, oil lightly. Place a second strip on top and oil that, too.

Place a tablespoon of the filling on the bottom center of the strip, fold in the sides, and then roll up to form a tight cylinder.

Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.

Bake the flutes for 8 – 12 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool slightly.

To serve: Drizzle with honey.

You can store the cooled pastries in tins in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.

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Pasta With Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta

This week my market had broccoli rabe and fennel on sale. It was Italian week and all things Italian were a great buy. Naturally, I took advantage of this sale. Used the broccoli rabe in this recipe, half the fennel bulb in the pork scaloppine recipe and I will use the remainder of the fennel in a salad.

4 servings

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and washed well
Salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 oz pappardelle pasta or rigatoni

Directions

Cut the broccoli rabe into two-inch lengths.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the broccoli rabe. After the water returns to a boil, boil two minutes.

Using a deep-fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli rabe to a colander.

Do not drain the hot water in the pot, as you’ll use it to cook the pasta.

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Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for a minute and stir in the broccoli rabe.

Toss to coat in the oil. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Place the ricotta in a large pasta bowl.

Bring the water in the large pot back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook al dente. Ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the pasta into the ricotta and stir together.

Drain the pasta, and toss with the ricotta, broccoli rabe and cheeses. Serve at once.

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Pork Scaloppine With Roasted Vegetables

Florida grown peppers were also on sale, so along with the fennel, I had the makings of a side dish.

4 servings

For the scaloppine

1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices boneless pork chops, each about 4 oz
½ cup dry white wine

Directions

Trim the pork of all fat. Place the pork slices between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound thin.

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Combine the flour with the fennel, salt and pepper. Dredge the pork slices in the flour mixture, coating each slice well.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the pork. Cook until brown and turn the slices over. Once brown, add the wine to the skillet and move the slices around until they are coated in the wine.

Remove the pork from the skillet and serve over the roasted vegetables. Pour any juices from the skillet over the pork.

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For the roasted vegetables

Ingredients

Half a fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into ½ inch slices
Half a medium red bell pepper, cut vertically into 1/2-inch strips
Half a medium green bell pepper, cut vertically into 1/2-inch strips
Half a medium yellow bell pepper, cut vertically into 1/2-inch strips
A quarter of a medium red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine fennel, peppers, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Drizzle oil over top and mix with a large spoon.

Transfer vegetables to a shallow baking pan and bake 30 minutes, mixing once, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice and mix gently.

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Fish Cakes

I usually cook extra fish fillets so I can make fish cakes with the extra later in the week. It is one of our favorite dishes.

Ingredients

8 oz white fish fillets or leftover cooked fish
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup Panko crumbs

Directions

Cook the fish if is raw. The fish can be baked, broiler or sautéed. It doesn’t matter for this recipe. Cool if cooking the fish just before making the cakes.

Flake the fish in a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients, except the Panko crumbs. Mix well.

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Divide the mixture into four equal balls. Place on the Panko crumbs, flatten the cakes and coat on all sides. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and brown the fish cakes on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve with Tartar Sauce.

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

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

Easy Skillet Potatoes

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Serve immediately.

Marinated Greek Vegetable Salad

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Carrots Agrodolce

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

This dish goes well with grilled meats.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Sautéed Fennel and Leek

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

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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Eggplant Caponata

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

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

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

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

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

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

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

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

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

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italian Vegetable Stew

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

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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january-blog-background-004Think there isn’t much? Not so – there is plenty.

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.

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Celery Bisque

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

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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.

2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

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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.

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Beets, Red Onion & Orange Salad

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.


december

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

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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 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound swordfish or tuna fillets
Salt
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
Black pepper

Directions

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

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4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
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

Directions

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.

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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.

Sautéed Carrots

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2 servings

Ingredients

3 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Directions

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

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Topping

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake

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

Directions

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. 

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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

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

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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.



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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.

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Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

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.

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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.

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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.

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Cucumber Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 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

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

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.



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