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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fennel

Zucchini Fritters

These fritters are also delicious with a sunny-side egg on top for a great lunch.

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 large eggs
2 medium scallions, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Olive Oil for frying

Directions

Chop the zucchini into very small pieces. For this dish, I prefer chopped zucchini as opposed to grated for a better taste.

Put the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt.

Mix the zucchini gently to distribute the salt and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Turn the zucchini out onto paper towels.

Squeeze the zucchini in the paper towels to rid them of moisture and place into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Add the eggs and scallion to the zucchini and mix together.

In a small bowl, add the rest of the dry ingredients and stir together. Add them to the zucchini and mix thoroughly.

Heat a medium to large pan over medium – high heat. Pour in enough oil to completely cover the bottom surface of the pan.

When little bubbles appear, the oil is hot enough.

Stir the zucchini mixture again and use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop up the batter and then level it off.

Pour the batter into the pan and gently push it into a flat pancake shape with the back of a metal spatula.

Cook for three minutes adjusting the heat up or down as needed, then turn, cooking for another three minutes.

Add more oil to the pan as needed to prevent sticking. Drain the zucchini fritters on a paper towel before serving.

Roasted Fennel and Leeks

This side goes so well with oven baked or grilled fish or chicken. Fennel bulb, which looks like a cross between an onion and the base of a celery bunch, has a sweet, anise-like flavor which mellows when roasted.

Ingredients

2 fennel bulbs, sliced into eighths, fronds reserved
2 large leeks, light green and white part only, cut into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zest of one lemon and 1 teaspoon juice

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the fennel, leek, garlic, oil, salt and pepper to taste in a shallow roasting pan; toss to coat fennel evenly.

Roast the fennel mixture, stirring midway through cooking, until softened, nicely browned and caramelized, about 40 minutes.

Add lemon zest and juice; toss to coat. Place in a serving dish; garnish with a few fennel fronds.

Jicama French Fries

Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is an edible root vegetable native to Mexico that many people describe as being a cross between an apple and a turnip. Low in calories but rich in fiber, jicama is considered a superfood along with kale, acai berries and quinoa.

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

1 medium jicama
1/2 teaspoon salt for boiling
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil or oil of choice, plus more if frying

Directions

Combine the spices and seasonings in a small bowl.

Peel the jicama and slice into french fry pieces.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sea salt into a wide deep skillet of water. Bring to a boil.

Add the jicama and when the water returns to a boil, cook the jicama fries for 10 minutes.

Drain in a colander. Place the fries on paper towels to dry.

You can prepare these in either of two ways.

Pour oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat until hot and add the jicama fries.

As each side turns brown, turn the fries until they are brown on all sides. Remove to paper towels to drain.

OR

Turn the oven to 425°F and when the temperature is reached, place the jicama fries in a large shallow dish.

Coat with the 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and then with the spice mixture.

Spread the fries onto an oiled baking pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning halfway through baking time, until the fries are crisp.

Tzatziki Cucumber Salad

This salad goes very well with grilled lamb chops or grilled fish.

Ingredients

2 medium cucumbers, peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt

Dressing

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup sour cream
¼ of a sweet onion, finely chopped
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon dried dill weed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut the peeled cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.

Cut each half into ½ inch thick slices (half moons). Place in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Toss gently to evenly distribute the salt.

Let the cucumbers drain while you make the dressing.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a storage bowl with a cover.

Place the salted cucumbers on several thicknesses of paper towels and squeeze gently to rid them of extra moisture.

Add them to the dressing and mix well. Cover the bowl and chill several hours before serving.

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Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and the agave nectar. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

 


Mediterranean ingredients and flavors are abundant in this dinner. Fish, beans and bread all healthy foods prepared with olive oil and healthy cooking methods. Seasoning is important in making recipes that taste good. Fennel, rosemary, parsley, sage, garlic, preserved lemon and olives all contribute to making these foods taste so good. Don’t leave any of them out and definitely try the bean recipe – it is delicious.

Mediterranean Grilled Salmon

Prepare the bean recipe first and keep warm while you grill the salmon.

Ingredients

1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 center-cut salmon fillets with skin
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 large green olives, such as Cerignola

Directions

In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the scallion, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice.

Using a sharp knife, make several 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin. Rub the preserved lemon mixture on all sides of the salmon. Place in a covered dish and allow to marinate several hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before grilling. Rub the remaining oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Light an outdoor grill and oil the grates very well so the fish does not stick.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes.

Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

Place the fish over the prepared cannellini beans and garnish with chopped parsley. Scatter the olives over the fish.

Cannellini Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
8 fresh sage leaves
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted cut in half if large
2 cups cooked cannellini beans, canned or homemade and drained
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

Directions

Combine the onion, garlic, sage, fennel, celery and oil in a deep, wide skillet.

Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion and fennel start to soften.

Add the artichoke hearts, the beans, broth and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper chili flakes. Keep warm.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Focaccia is delicious hot from the oven or warm and it is best the same day it’s made. But leftovers can be successfully reheated, either as slices in the toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.

 


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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