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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who sautéed the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, The term itself most likely originated from Tuscany; where the local peasants would make wine, but had to give most to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds, and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water brought it to a boil, then sealed the mixture in a terracotta vase and let it ferment for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza, the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil.
Acqua pazza became a very popular dish with tourists on Capri Island in the 1960s.
The pezzogna fish (also known as “occhione” or “big eye” because of the size of its eyes) is caught in the Bay of Naples and is highly prized for its delicious taste.
Marcella Hazan was introduced to the dish by her friend from Amalfi, Pierino Jovine, and her first reaction was, “Who wants to eat fish in water?” Here is the link to her recipe:

https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/fish-in-crazy-water

And here is my version

Pesce All’Acqua Pazza

Ingredients for 2 people

1 lb fish fillets (red snapper, flounder) cut into serving portions
Salt and pepper
4 mini plum tomatoes (Marzano) or cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Dry the fish fillets on paper towels and season them with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the garlic, onion, and peperoncino in a skillet with a cover that is large enough to fit the fish, until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, white wine, and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the fish. Cook, covered, 10 minutes for thin fillets or 15 minutes for thicker ones. Serve immediately, dressed with the cooking liquid and topped with the parsley.

Here is another example of my cooking philosophy – never waste food. I had extra zucchini squash and leftover cooked cauliflower, so I decided to use them for side dishes with this fish recipe.

Cauliflower Cakes

Makes 6

Ingredients

2 cups mashed cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Butter

Directions

Combine the mashed cauliflower, cheeses, and seasoning.
Heat a stovetop griddle to medium/high heat. Coat with butter.
Form the cauliflower mixture into 6 patties about 3 inches across. Coat the patties in the panko crumbs.
Cook until golden brown & set, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Zucchini Pancakes

These are so good that I usually double the recipe.

Makes 8-4 inch patties

Ingredients

2 cups grated zucchini
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, grated
2 green onions, finely minced
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch or flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Butter

Directions

Place the grated zucchini on a kitchen towel and sprinkle the zucchini lightly with kosher salt. Let rest 30 minutes.
Squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini with the towel.
In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini with the egg, garlic, green onions, and arrowroot powder. Stir in the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Season with black pepper to taste.
Brush a large stovetop griddle pan or large skillet with butter. Scoop 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture onto the griddle and pat it flat with a metal spatula. Add as many patties as you can to the pan without letting them touch each other.
Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and keep the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven until all the pancakes are made.
Extras can be wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator for a week. Believe me when I say the leftovers are delicious reheated for breakfast and served with a fried egg on top.

 

 

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Folklore tells us that what has come to be known as Italian Wedding Soup began as a dish traditionally served to the bride and groom at their wedding reception. However, that story is not exactly true. Italian Wedding Soup gained its name, not from the occasion that might bring it to the table but rather from the harmony of its ingredients. The name of the dish in English, “wedding soup”, actually means “married soup” (minestra maritata) in Italian. The modern Americanized version of wedding soup is a far lighter dish than the original, which was a rib-sticking dish intended as the main (and sometimes only) meal of the day. The Italian Wedding Soup history also has ties with America, where it was brought here by the Neapolitan immigrants. In Italy, the soup went out of fashion around the time the immigrants took their recipe with them to America. There are many, many versions of this soup. Below is my version of the dish and the one my family loves. This soup tastes better if made a day ahead.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the meatballs:

1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery with leaves, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
12 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.

For the meatballs:

Place the ground chicken, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, cream, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
Form 1 inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and drop the meatballs onto the prepared pan They don’t have to be perfectly round. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

For the soup:

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the Italian seasoning and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.


Philly-Style Steak Sandwiches

2 sandwiches

Ingredients

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 boneless rib eye steak, about 10 ounces and about 1 inch thick, trimmed of all fat
2 hoagie (Italian sub) rolls, split
2 thin slices white American cheese, each folded in half
2 thin slices provolone cheese, each folded in half

Directions

Cut the steak into paper-thin slices.
In a medium bowl combine the onion, peppers, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
Heat a skillet (with a cover) and add the butter. Add the steak slices and cook quickly, about a minute on each side. Remove the steak to a plate and add the vegetables to the skillet.
Cook the vegetables until they are soft and tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While still in the pan, divide the vegetable mixture into two long piles. Divide the steak slices in half and place on top of the vegetables. Place a folded slice of provolone cheese and a folded slice of American cheese on top of each steak mound. Cover the pan and heat on low just until the cheese begins to melt.


Brush the cut sides of the rolls with a little olive oil and toast under the broiler just until lightly brown. Place one steak mound on each role and serve.

Mixed Green Salad With Homemade Ranch Dressing

Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Salad
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce
1 bunch arugula
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced into half moons
¼ of a red onion sliced thin

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and pepper; stir in the chives.
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, red onion, and cucumbers. Drizzle with some of the dressing and serve the remaining dressing on the side.


Have lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving? Here is a delicious recipe to use some of the leftovers in a new way. For the topping, I use a mixture of potatoes and cauliflower to reduce the number of carbs in the dish. If you are not a fan of cauliflower use all potatoes. Don’t forget the leftover cranberry sauce to add as a side.

Filling Ingredients

4 cups cubed leftover turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
Half a green bell pepper, diced
1 cup leftover green beans, diced
2 cups leftover turkey gravy

Topping

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 cups leftover mashed cauliflower
1 tablespoon melted butter.
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose either an 8×8-inch or a 9×14-inch oven-proof pan, depending on how much food you have. Oval gratin dishes or a casserole dish also work well, as do individual baking dishes. Butter the dish well.

To reheat the filling before putting the casserole in the oven.

Combine the filling ingredients in the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and heat in the microwave until warm (not hot), about 4 minutes on high.
If you don’t wish to use the microwave, reheat the mixture in a saucepan and pour into the baking dish.

To make the topping:

Thoroughly combine the mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Mix in the melted butter and cheddar cheese. Spread the topping over the filling in the baking dish, spreading it to the edges of the dish. Place the baking dish on a foil covered cookie sheet. The filling may bubble over.

Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. You will know it is done when the pie filling is bubbling hot and the topping turns golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


The word “spiedino” is a diminutive of “spiedo” the Italian food term for skewered meat. Spiedini, or “skewers,” are a popular way of grilling throughout Italy, from north to south. Small pieces of meat, fish, vegetables, and even cheese are skewered on a spiedo, or “stick,” and then cooked over a flame. This recipe is one I have adapted from the Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

Spiedino Di Mare (Skewered Seafood)

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

6 oz sea scallops
6 oz large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, for breading
Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below
Fresh parsley, chopped
Bamboo or metal skewers
Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice, recipe below

Directions

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in warm water for a 1/2 hour.
Season the scallops and shrimp with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the grated garlic to the breadcrumbs.
Lightly coat the seafood with olive oil, then dip in the seasoned breadcrumbs.
Preheat a stovetop grill and oil the grill.
Skewer the shellfish and grill on both sides just until the shrimp turn a light pink.
Place the grilled seafood on the prepared rice and pour the lemon butter sauce over the shellfish. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Black Pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the lemon juice to the butter and warm briefly.
Add Worcestershire sauce and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside.

Simmered Italian Seasoned Rice

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the broth and Italian seasoning in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil.
Stir the rice into the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the cheese.

Italian Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 whole garlic cloves skin removed
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Few leaves of fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with olive oil. Place the whole garlic cloves in the oil and let the garlic infuse the oil and begin to caramelize. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic.


Add the peppers, onions, oregano, red pepper, salt, and pepper and allow the vegetables to cook down and soften turning them over a few times. This should take about 15 minutes.
Place the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped basil.


Every few weeks I like to try a new cuisine, This week it is French.

French Onion Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

3 large sweet onions, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
64 ounces (8 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 tablespoons freshly grated/shredded parmesan cheese
16 slices thin swiss cheese
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread,1/2-inch thick, toasted

Directions

Cut onions in half, then thinly slice.
In a large soup pot, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat and add the onions.
Saute onions for about 20 minutes, until limp and golden brown in color.


Add the beef broth and thyme and heat to boiling, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the sherry and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oven to broil.
Place soup crocks (the number will depend on servings) in a baking pan and ladle onion soup evenly among the soup crocks filling each ¾ quarters of the way.
Add one tablespoon of grated cheese to each crock and stir gently.
Place a slice of toasted bread and two slices of swiss cheese on top of each bread slice.
Carefully transport the baking pan with the crocks to the broiler and broil the crocks until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Serve the crocks on separate plates.

Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

8 medium bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons dry white wine
6 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

Remove the chicken skin or leave on depending on personal preference.
Place the chicken thighs on a cutting board, skin side up, and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn them over and sprinkle them with one more teaspoon of salt.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large (11 to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan in one layer, skin side down. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes without moving, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the chicken pieces with tongs and sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan,, moving some of the onions under the chicken, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring the onions occasionally, until the thighs are cooked to 155 to 160 degrees and the onions are brown. Transfer the chicken (not the onions) to a plate and allow to rest uncovered while you make the sauce. If the onions aren’t browned, cook them for another minute.
Add the wine and Dijon mustard and stir over low heat for one minute. Add the sour cream and heavy cream and stir for one minute. Return the chicken, skin side up, and the juices to the skillet and reheat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the braised cabbage.

White Wine Braised Savoy Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

1 small head of Savoy cabbage, about 1 pound
2 large shallots, sliced thin
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 slice bacon
1/2 cup white wine
4 oz unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Cut the cabbage in quarters, remove the core and cut the cabbage into thin slices
Sauté the bacon in a deep skillet.
When done, remove and drain on a paper towel.
Add the cabbage and stir-fry briefly.
Add the wine and thyme, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add applesauce and butter, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Crumble bacon and add to the cabbage. Stir well and serve.


One of the fastest developing trends in cooking this year has been the use of spiralized veggies. Regardless of the season or the recipe, the spiralizer has given cooks a way to substitute pasta or carb-heavy noodles with fresh squash, beets, and other root vegetables. Green Giant has launched an entire line of frozen spiralized veggies with four different varieties—zucchini, butternut squash, beets, and carrots without any additives—only the vegetable itself. Supermarkets also sell spiralized vegetables in their produce sections.


I find the frozen variety very useful because they are readily available and unlike the fresh veggies, they don’t spoil quickly. I experimented with these frozen veggies and learned not to follow the package directions for microwaving or boiling. Instead, I defrost the veggies, dry them on a kitchen towel and saute them or add them to a sauce. They turn out great – not at all soggy and they retain a fresh taste. Try the recipe below and you will be surprised.

Butternut Squash Pasta

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube or ¼ teaspoon vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Two 12 oz packages frozen butternut squash spirals
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, chopped and parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Defrost the frozen butternut squash in a colander early in the day you plan to cook. Transfer the squash to a kitchen towel to dry.

In a saucepan, saute the onion, mushrooms, fresh oregano and garlic in the olive oil. Add tomatoes, bouillon, and stir. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the cream and butternut squash spirals and simmer for a few minutes until the squash and cream are hot.
Top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese and serve with the grilled sausage.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs. Italian Rope Sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Brush the sausage with olive oil.

Heat the outdoor grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 15 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry. Cook for 15 minutes more.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degrees F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through. If not, continue to cook until the temperature is reached.

Note: to cook on a stovetop grill, heat the pan, lower the heat to low and oil the pan. Cook the sausage for about the same time as above or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.



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