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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: greens

 

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

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

Add the following:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cook over low heat until tender.

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

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

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

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

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

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

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

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seasonalmarch

Looking forward to spring!

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In my area asparagus, Florida plum tomatoes, celery, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, arugula, spinach, beets, strawberries, raspberries and herbs are all in season. So, while I was shopping this week, I decided to take advantage of the good prices for the asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. I would have bought beets and carrots also but my friend has a great garden and he shared some of his bounty with me.

Stuffed Artichokes

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This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 lemon, halved
2 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 tablespoon diced pickled pepper rings
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Directions

To prepare the stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Toss and set aside.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon halves into the water. Cut off the artichoke stems and make sure the artichokes are level so they do not tip over in the baking dish..

Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 inch off each artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed called the choke.

Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointed ends from outer leaves of each artichoke. Wash the artichokes well with running water. Let the water run into each leaf.

I once had an embarrassing moment when I served this dish and a guest had a fly in one of the leaves.

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Rub a lemon half over all the cut parts of the artichoke. Holding the artichokes over the bowl of stuffing, stuff the choke cavity and in between the leaves with the breadcrumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in a baking pan or casserole dish just large enough to fit the artichokes.and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Squeeze the lemon juice from the halves and add it to the water. Cover the pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 11/2 hours, or until tender and a knife slides easily into an artichoke and a leaf pulls out easily.

Remove from the baking dish and set on individual serving dishes.

Bucatini with Spring Vegetables

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2 servings

Ingredients

6 ounces dried bucatini pasta (thick spaghetti)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions

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Trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Weigh the asparagus and set aside 8 oz. Reserve the rest of the asparagus for another recipe. Cut the 8 oz of asparagus into two-inch lengths.

In a large pot cook pasta according al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain. Return pasta to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss until well combined; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of oil.

Add asparagus and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until bright green. Add cherry tomatoes,olives, basil, salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Add enough reserved pasta water to create a sauce. To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Pass with lemon wedges, if desired.

Springtime Pizza

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough
24 very thin asparagus
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced.
Salt & black pepper to taste

Directions

Snap off the bottom ends of the asparagus.

Mix the ricotta with the basil leaves and a little salt.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly oil a pizza pan.

Stretch the dough to cover the pan and brush with oil, making sure to coat edges well. Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the dough.

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Scatter spoonfuls of ricotta over the dough and sprinkle with the shallots. Place the tomato slices over the cheese and arrange the asparagus in a spoke pattern over the tomato layer.

Sprinkle with the olives and black pepper.

Bake the pizza until browned, about 20 minutes.

Beet Salad With Blue Cheese

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 medium beets
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar, divided
1/4 cup honey, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 orange, minced
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
2 thin carrots, shaved
6 cups baby greens
1/2 crumbled bleu cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the tops and tails from the beets.

Place the beets in an ovenproof casserole dish with 1/4 cup of the raspberry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the honey and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add water until the liquid covers the beets halfway.

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Cover the dish and bake for about an hour (longer if beets are larger). The beets should be tender throughout when pierced with a knife.

For the dressing:

Whisk the shallots, remaining raspberry vinegar and honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking. Stir in the orange zest.

While the beets are still warm, peel and cut them into eighths.

Cover a serving platter with the greens. Arrange the beets, carrots and cucumber slices on a platter and scatter the bleu cheese on top. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Ingredients

2 refrigerated pie crust sheets for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature

In large bowl combine:

2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour, all-purpose flour or other pie thickener
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the sugar with the pie thickener in a large mixing bowl. Add the fruit, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to combine the sugar and fruit.

Fit one pastry sheet into the pie pan and place pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the filling into the pie shell.

Place the second pastry sheet on a cutting board. With a pastry cutter the sheet into 12 even lengths.

Place 6 strips on top of the pie filling and weave the second 6 over and under the strips on the pie to create a basket weave look.

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Spray the strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).


Tuscan Kale

Tuscan Kale

Spinach

Spinach

Rapini

Rapini

Greens

The fall is the best time to buy greens from a grocery market or farmers’ market. Some leafy greens cook very quickly. Spinach is the best example. But others, like kale, are more hearty and need a longer time to cook. Dark green, leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Is is good idea to include them in your recipes, often. Here are some of my favorite ways to cook them.

Kale

Lacinato kale (called cavolo nero, literally “black cabbage”, in Italian and often in English) is a variety of kale with a long tradition in Italian cuisine, especially that of Tuscany. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale, or black Tuscan palm. Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita. It is also readily available in my market.

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Tuscan Kale, Roasted Chicken and Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 large bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into 1″ strips
  • Simple Lemon sauce, recipe below

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts in a medium baking dish, drizzle with the 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning. Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

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Place the kale in a large pot, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, minced garlic and simmer over very low heat until the kale is wilted completely.

Continue to cook until the kale and onions are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the kale on a serving platter, top with the roasted chicken and serve the lemon sauce on the side.

Simple Savory Lemon Cream Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ up. white wine
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or other herbs

Directions

Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet, add the flour and whisk for about a minute. Add the milk and wine. Remove the pan from the heat and add the seasonings, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Return the pan to the heat and whisk until thick and creamy, about another minute or two. Pour over vegetables, chicken or fish.

Rapini (Broccoli rabe)

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Pasta With Greens and Ricotta Cheese

Paccheri a type of pasta in the shape of a very large tube that originated from Campania and Calabria, Italy. They are generally smooth, but there is also a ribbed version, paccheri millerighe.

They can be served stuffed or with just a sauce.

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Ingredients

  • 2 bunches greens, such as chard, kale or broccoli raab (rapini), washed well and cut into 2 inch lengths.
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or a mixture of Parmesan and Romano Pecorino
  • 1 pound paccheri, pappardelle or orecchiette pasta

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over very low heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt it generously and add the greens. After the water returns to a boil, boil for about 3 minutes until the greens are tender.

Using a deep-fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the rapini to the skillet. Toss in the hot pan for about a minute, just until the greens are lightly coated with oil and fragrant with garlic.

Season with salt and pepper.

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

Place the ricotta in a large pasta bowl.

Bring the water for the pasta 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 add it to the bowl with the ricotta. Add the grated Parmesan and toss with the ricotta and greens. Serve at once.

 

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Spinach

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Spinach and Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 bunch spinach, stemmed and washed well
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the pizza pan
  • Half of a medium onion sliced
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onion is tender. Add the spinach and cook just until it wilts.

Season with salt and pepper. Set the skillet aside.

Press the pizza dough to the edges of the pan.

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Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella and spread the ricotta over the mozzarella. Distribute the spinach mixture evenly over the ricotta and sprinkle with feta.

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Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.


august

The ingredients listed above are all at their best, so make the most of August’s seasonal foods by turning them into delicious summer recipes. Pair some of summer’s ripe tomatoes with some delicious crab. Create a salad with ripe peaches and Parma Ham. Cook up some pasta and add chopped August veggies and chill. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. Below are some ideas to inspire you to create some recipes from August’s bounty.

New York Deli Style Pickled Green Tomatoes

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Ingredients

For each quart jar:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled water or purified tap water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 pound firm full-sized green tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 Serrano chili, stem removed or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Notes on the ingredients:

The tomatoes must be all green and cut into quarters.

You can usually find distilled water in the grocery or drug store. Distilled water is best because it has impurities removed and impurities can impart off flavors. Purified tap water is perfectly fine to use also.

Use Kosher salt not table salt. Kosher salt has larger flake shaped grains and also has small amounts of anti-caking additives but no iodine.

The recipe needs a little heat. Half a serrano works perfectly. If fresh peppers are not available, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

You must use distilled vinegar. Any other vinegar imparts too many odd flavors.

Directions

Use really clean bottles and lids. Sterilize them by submerging them in a boiling water bath or on a setting for sanitizing in your dishwasher.

Add the garlic, dill seeds, celery, hot pepper or red pepper flakes and peppercorns to the jar.

Thoroughly wash the tomatoes, remove the stem and cut them into quarters. Cram them in the jar leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.

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Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil and stir until all the salt is dissolved.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Turn the jars over and let sit for a couple of hours.

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Return the jars to the upright position and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Refrigerate the pickled tomatoes for two weeks before serving.

The pickled tomatoes will keep for months in the refrigerator.

Easy Chilled Summer Melon Soup

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This soup makes a great summer appetizer or serve it for lunch.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Crenshaw or cantaloupe melon, skin and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, skin and seeds removed
  • One 15 ounce can coconut milk
  • Grated zest of one large lime
  • 1 large scallion (green onion) light green section finely diced and the top chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Basil or mint leaves for garnish

Directions

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Dice the melon and set aside 4 cups of each kind of melon. Puree the melon in a food processor. You will probably need to do this in batches. Pour the processed melon into a storage bowl.

To the last batch of puree add the lime zest, jalapeno, ginger,1 teaspoon of basil, the 1 teaspoon mint, diced light green scallion and the salt to the melon puree in the processor.

Pulse a few times and pour in the storage bowl with the first batch of pureed melon. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well.

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Chill the soup overnight. Garnish with scallion tops, fresh mint leaves or basil when serving.

Breaded Eggplant Salad

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For 2

For the eggplant

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup dried Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

For the salad

  • Half a large yellow or red tomato, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup diced pickled peppers (spicy peppers are great here if you like them)
  • 4 cups salad greens, chopped

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the eggplant into 1 x 2 inch pieces.

Combine the beaten egg and milk in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Place the coated eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake the eggplant until crispy and brown, turning them over when one side is golden, about 20 minutes.

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Place the chopped pickled peppers on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

While the eggplant bakes, arrange the salad ingredients on individual salad serving plates. Top with the cooked eggplant and drizzle with some of the dressing.

Mix well; serve immediately with additional dressing on the side.

Broiled Tomatoes

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Need a quick side dish, full of flavor and certainly seasonal, try these quick broiled tomatoes.

For each 2 person serving

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato
  • 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the broiler to high.

Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.

Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.

Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.

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Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.

 


 

 

soupcover

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

soup1

Autumn Chowder

Serves: 4

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

Directions

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

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

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

soup3

Hearty Greens and Pasta Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

soup2

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

soup4

Brown Rice Chicken Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

soup5

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

 Note To My Readers

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


summerpastacover

Summer pastas should be simple and fresh, ideally made with vegetables straight from the garden or from your local farmers’ market. As the temperature rises, trade out heavier ingredients like braised meats or long-cooked sauces for fresh vegetables, bright herbs and seafood. One of the best parts of summer is the abundance of fresh produce. Perfect summer tomatoes need little work. Just toss them with fresh fettuccine and extra-virgin olive oil. Or try roasting cherry tomatoes with garlic and red onions and mixing it all with pasta, lemon juice and arugula. The great thing about summer vegetable sauces for pasta is that they require so little cooking. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

summerpasta1

 

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 2 zucchini, diced small
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Bring a medium-sized stockpot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta al dente. Reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, diced zucchini and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the diced tomato, lemon juice, cooked chicken and pasta cooking water. Bring ingredients to a boil; add spinach and cooked, drained pasta.

Stir ingredients and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Stir in the chopped parsley. Serve hot, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese.

summerpasta2

Tomato Linguine Sauté

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound linguine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Wash the tomatoes. Dry the tomatoes; then core and cut them in half.

Use a spoon to remove most of the seeds. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.

Add chopped tomatoes to a colander, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and let them sit so they can release some of their water (this should only take a half an hour and can be done ahead of time).

Combine drained tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic in a large sauté pan. Warm this mixture over low heat. It should not be hot.

Cook pasta al dente. Drain.

Combine pasta and tomato mixture together in a serving bowl. Add fresh basil and Parmesan and taste for seasoning.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

summerpasta3

Pasta With Shrimp and Roasted Red Peppers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 fresh roasted red peppers, diced; for directions on how to make roasted red peppers, check this post
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • 12 ounces dried penne pasta

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the onion is tender.

Add crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add roasted peppers, shrimp and wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and cheese. Return to boiling; reduce heat.

Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Stir in basil.

Add the hot cooked pasta to the pan; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

summerpasta5

Pasta with Squash Blossoms

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow summer squash, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound short pasta
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 7 squash blossoms, 4 sliced thin and 3 left whole
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced

Directions

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Reserve 1 1/4 cups pasta cooking water. Drain pasta.

Saute yellow squash and zucchini in olive oil in a large skillet over low heat until pale gold, about 8 minutes.

Add pasta, the reserved pasta cooking water, tomatoes, 4 sliced and 3 whole squash blossoms, cheese and oregano. Cook, stirring, until a sauce forms, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

summerpasta6

Lemony Pasta Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Pasta Salad

  • 10 ounces bow-tie pasta
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 10 ounces (about 1 pint) mini heirloom, grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 ears corn on the cob, shucked
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, mustard, salt and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the sliced tomatoes, corn kernels, crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts, basil and mint.

Pour the dressing over the pasta and mix well. Serve at room temperature.


Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

Russian Artist Wassily Kandinsky

The arrival of spring brings out the lighter side in our dining habits, with dishes emphasizing fresh flavors, such as fruit, herbs, tender greens, seafood and more. Mild spring salads with their seasonal ingredients complement the warming weather. A spring salad can be as simple as tender greens tossed with a vinaigrette or you can dress it up by adding seasonal ingredients, like peas, asparagus, radishes and baby artichokes.

Tender greens are best in spring. Leaves should be bright and fresh looking. Choose crisp lettuces that are free of blemishes. Lettuce should be washed and thoroughly dried in a salad spinner to remove any excess moisture. Refrigerate washed-and-dried greens wrapped in dry paper towels in an airtight plastic bag for about five days.

Here are some recipes for spring salads that can be used as a first course, for lunch or as a main dish.

spring1

Spinach Salad with Warm Parmigiano-Reggiano Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces baby spinach (about 10 cups)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place spinach, mushrooms and onion in a large salad bowl.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add anchovies and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in vinegar and then cheese. Pour the warm dressing over the salad, toss well and serve with a pepper mill on the table, so that you can top your salad with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

spring2

Bean Salad With Lemon And Herbs

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cooked beans (such as cannellini) or one 14-oz. can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed
  • 6 oz fresh green beans or sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, just until tender but still firm. Drain.

Mix the beans, green beans, parsley, oil, chives, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse the flavors.

spring3

Radicchio, Fennel and 
Olive Panzanella

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 oz Italian country-style bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 small head radicchio, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted, halved
  • 3 oz aged sheep’s-milk Pecorino Romano, shaved
  • 3 oz hard salami, thinly sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread with lemon zest and ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake, tossing occasionally, until crisp on the outside but still chewy in the center, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk shallot, lemon juice, vinegar and oregano in a large salad bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil.

Add radicchio, fennel, parsley, olives, cheese, salami and toasted bread to the dressing; toss to combine.

spring4

Grilled Chicken Salad with Radishes, Cucumbers and Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves plus 2 teaspoons chopped
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, divided
  • 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped shallots
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 – 1/2 inch-thick slices country-style Italian bread
  • One 5-ounce package mixed baby greens
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes 
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers 

Directions

Place the 1/4 cup basil leaves, parsley, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and the shallots in mini processor; chop coarsely.

With machine running, gradually add 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil by teaspoonfuls to thin, if you want a thinner pesto.

Whisk the 2 teaspoons chopped basil, remaining 4 teaspoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons oil in small bowl. Season dressing with and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush chicken breasts on both sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill until grill marks form and chicken is cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface; let rest 5 minutes.

Using a clean brush, brush both sides of the bread slices with oil. Grill until dark-brown grill marks appear on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Place greens, radishes and cucumbers in large bowl. Toss with the reserved dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad among 4 plates.

Cut grilled chicken breasts crosswise into thin slices. Arrange 1 sliced chicken breast on top of each salad.

Spoon pesto over the chicken. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts over salads. Serve with grilled bread slices.

spring5

Grilled Steak Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Steak

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups baby spinach leaves or any tender spring greens
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • Grilled baguette slices

Directions

For the dressing:

Combine mayonnaise and the next 7 ingredients in a bowl; slowly whisk in olive oil. Stir in rosemary. Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

For the steak:

Combine the wine, mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chopped rosemary and garlic in a large, heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add the steak and the seal bag, turning to coat.

Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat grill to high (450°F to 600°F). Remove steak from the marinade and discard marinade. Pat steak dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill, on a greased grill rack, 6 minutes on each side (for medium-rare) or to the desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Brush bread slices with oil and grill 2 to 3 minutes.

Toss spinach with 1/4 cup of the dressing and divide among 4 salad plates.

Place steak slices on top of the greens and sprinkle each with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

Serve the salads with grilled baguette slices and pass the remaining dressing.



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