Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peppers

Most people know Rick Bayless from Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, his Public Television series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time and his many cookbooks. He is also the owner of multiple restaurants, including the outstanding Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, where my family ate numerous times when we lived in Chicago. I recently discovered that he developed a line of Mexican cooking sauces that are sold in most supermarkets. While the sauces have been available for a while, I just recently discovered them and find them to be delicious, authentic and so very convenient. I especially like these sauces because they are made from fresh ingredients with no preservatives, are gluten-free, and low in carbohydrates. They also come in convenient, easy to use pouches.
These sauces are so convenient when you are busy and want a good tasting dinner fast. I used one of the taco sauces for my recipe below. There are quite a few made by his company, Frontera Foods, and you can check out the rest with this link.

Key Lime Shrimp Tacos

Serves 4. Since I only wanted two servings, I made half the recipe. I also used half of the sauce and froze the unused portion for another occasion. I also changed the directions from the one listed on the package in making this dish.

Serve this entree with a salad and ranch dressing.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon avocado or vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 Poblano pepper, diced
1 pound peeled, deveined medium shrimp;
1 pouch Frontera Key Lime Shrimp Taco Skillet Sauce
8 tortillas (crispy or soft), warmed
Toppings: cheese, jalapenos, shredded cabbage or lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc

Directions

Heat the oil in a nonstick 10 or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the onion and poblano pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 4 minutes. Add the sauce and let it sizzle for a minute or two and then add the shrimp. Cook and stir over medium heat until the shrimp turn pink and are just cooked through about 4 minutes.


Serve in warm tortillas with your choice of toppings.
Variations: Substitute 1 pound sea scallops or cubed firm fish for the shrimp.


Speedy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

I used the last of my roasted chicken in this recipe. Here is a link to the post:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2019/11/13/mediterranean-style-roast-chicken/

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
One (8 oz) container enchilada sauce (I use Frontera brand), divided
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces)
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
8 tortillas
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add 1/4cup of the enchilada sauce, chili powder, and the chicken. Hest over low heat until warm. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wrap tortillas in paper towels; microwave at high 30 seconds or until warm. Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla; roll up tightly and place tortillas, seam side down, in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas, and sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream mixed with the cilantro.


‘Scarpariello” literally means shoemaker-style.”Shoemaker-style chicken” may refer to Neapolitan shoemakers making delicious food in the little time they had at the end of the day. Chicken scarpariello is sometimes attributed to Sicily and Calabria and is made by sauteeing chicken pieces in oil and adding white wine, lemon, garlic, and parsley. However, it is not a traditional dish from Italy. It is probably more of a “Little Italy” dish, born of southern Italian roots somewhere in our Italian American neighborhoods here in the United States. In any case, it is delicious and very easy to make. Some recipes are made with a whole chicken or chicken thighs. I prefer the chicken strips for this dish. I also add potatoes but you can leave them out and serve the dish with pasta.

Chicken Scarpariello

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenders
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil- divided
1/2 lb of spicy Italian sausage
12 oz new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch thick slices
4 pickled sweet cherry peppers, quartered
1 sweet bell pepper sliced (red, yellow, or orange)
1/4 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon cherry pepper pickle liquid
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon black ground pepper
¼ cup each chopped fresh basil and fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour.
In a 10- to 12-inch heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Add the chicken pieces, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, and brown on both sides, turning once.

Transfer to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, cook the sausage slices and potatoes until brown; remove them and set aside with the chicken.

Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers and cherry peppers to the pan. Saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, broth, vinegar, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper and bring to a boil, then return the chicken, sausage, and potatoes to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a bubbling simmer until cooked through 20 minutes; add more wine or water if necessary to keep the pan from getting dry.

Transfer the chicken to serving plates. Stir the basil and parsley into the sauce remaining in the pan and spoon over the chicken.

Caprese Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large vine-ripened tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced1/4 inch thick
Fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

On a serving platter arrange tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Season salad with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil.


Mini Crab Puffs with Remoulade Sauce

The crab puffs can be baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated just before game time.

Ingredients

1/2 pound fresh crab meat
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crab seasoning (recommended Old Bay)
2 tablespoons almond flour or all-purpose flour

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the crab in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then fold in the crab meat.

Cover the bowl and chill the mixture until ready to bake.

Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a cookie scoop, fill 15 openings to the top of the muffin cup with the crab mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden brown.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to a serving platter.

Serve with

Remoulade Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a serving dish. Whisk until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and bake before serving.

Ingredients

15 large mushrooms cleaned and stems removed

Spinach filling

1 scallion, minced
1 small garlic, grated
1 pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil

Directions

Hollow out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stems for another use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a glass baking dish and put the dish in the oven while the oven preheats.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stuff the caps with the filling and place in the hot prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.Place on a serving platter.

If the Mushrooms have been in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature for an hour before cooking.

They may need to be baked a little longer.

Mini Pepper Nachos

Ingredients

15 mini peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons taco seasoning, see recipe below
½ cup of water
1 cup of salsa
Half an onion, diced
Sliced pickled jalapenos to taste
15 Mini peppers

Cheese Sauce

1 cup Velveeta light cheese, cubed
½ cup shredded Mexican blend or Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a13x9 inch baking dish.
Cut the mini peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves in the baking dish.

Brown the meat in a medium skill. Add the taco seasoning and water. Simmer until the liquid evaporates. Spoon the beef into each pepper half. Place a spoonful of salsa on each pepper. Sprinkle the diced onion on top. Add slices of jalapeno to taste. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Make the cheese sauce: Place the cheeses and milk in a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup. Hear for two minutes. Stir. Return the mixture to the microwave for 30 seconds if the cheese is not melted or set aside for a few minutes and the cheese will finish melting. Stir well.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the cheese sauce over the peppers and place the dish under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes, just until the top begins to brown. Watch carefully.

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Stir all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Add 2 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water per pound of browned meat.


Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

I used a leftover cooked steak. If you do not have any on hand, cook a small steak and slice it to use in this recipe.

Ingredients

1 large green bell pepper, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 large onion, sliced
4 ounces of packaged sliced mushrooms
6 ounces cooked steak, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 slices provolone cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place pepper halves on a rimmed baking sheet or in individual ramekins. Bake until tender but still able to hold their shape, about 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they’re softened and release their juices, about 5 minutes more. Add steak, Italian seasoning, pepper and salt; cook, stirring, until the steak is hot through, 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in Worcestershire.
Preheat broiler to high. Divide the filling between the pepper halves and top each with a folded slice of cheese. Broil 5 inches from the heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned 2 to 3 minutes.

Oven Sweet Potato Fries

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons of olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potato wedges with oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a ziplock bag. Spread the wedges out on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender about 20 minutes total.


Eggplant Lasagna

Sugo di Pomodoro

Soffritto
1 carrot
Half a medium sweet onion
1 celery stalk
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons sundried tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste

Eggplant Layer
4 small eggplants (each about 6-7 oz)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
¾ cup Italian seasoned panko crumbs
Olive oil

Cheese Layer
3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs )parsley and basil)
16 oz mozzarella, sliced thin

Directions

For the soffritto
With a sharp knife, finely chop or mince the onions, carrots, and celery. Try to cut the vegetables with uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and the soffritto. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables, stirring often, until they have absorbed most of the olive oil and are tender. Stir in the garlic and stir.

For the sauce
Add in the tomatoes and remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot partially with the lid. Bring the tomato sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring often.

For the eggplant
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the eggplants and slice into very thin slices. Place all the sliced eggplants in a ziplock plastic bag. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and shake the bag. Coat 3 sheet pans with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange eggplant slices on the pan. Sprinkle eggplant on each pan with ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ cup of seasoned panko crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over the eggplant on all three pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the eggplant slices are lightly brown. Switch pans around in the oven after 15 minutes.

For the cheese layer
In a large mixing bowl combine the beaten eggs, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, and herbs. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to assemble the casserole.
Slice the mozzarella cheese.

To assemble the Eggplant Lasagna
Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Add ⅓ of the eggplant slices. Place ⅓ of the sliced mozzarella on top of the eggplant slices and then spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella/eggplant layer. Add another ⅓ layer of eggplant slices and spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant/ Add ⅓ of the mozzarella slices and the remaining ricotta mixture. Add the remaining eggplant slices topped with 1 cup of the tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.


Pepper Steak

Ingredients

1 pound top sirloin steak or flank steak, cut into very thin strips
1/4 cup soy sauce (divided)
1/3 cup Shaoxing wine (divided)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 green bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 1 cup)
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, whites only, finely minced
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha

Directions

Combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine in a bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature or up to 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Combine remaining soy sauce with cornstarch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Set aside.

Combine peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside. Combine garlic, ginger, and scallions in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or a large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and half of the peppers and onions. Transfer to the bowl with the beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining peppers/onions.

Return pan to high heat and add the peppers/onions/beef and the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring until incorporated about 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until thickened, about 45 seconds longer. If you like your Chinese recipes with spice add several tablespoons of Sriracha.

Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve with rice


As I mentioned on Friday that this has been a good season for peppers, my CSA share has yielded quite a few different varieties. Here are some of the ways I have used them.

Italian Peppers and Eggs

This recipe is a traditional Italian dish served at lunch with crispy Italian bread.

Ingredients

8 large organic free-range eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 large sweet onion, peeled and sliced
16 Italian sweet (banana) frying peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the stem and seeds, Cut each half into 1-inch pieces

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chili, garlic and onion in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes

Add frying peppers and sauté until they begin to soften and wilt, about 5 minutes

Beat eggs, lower heat and add beaten eggs to the pan with onion and peppers

Let set in pan, then cook gently, occasionally folding eggs over, until firm

Add salt and pepper to taste

Pickled Sweet Cherry Peppers

These pickled peppers make a delicious appetizer stuffed with salami and provolone cheese slices.

For each one quart jar, you will need:

10-15 small sweet cherry peppers
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1½ cups white wine vinegar
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons white sugar or sugar substitute

Directions

Wash and dry the peppers and put them in a glass quart jar. Peel the garlic clove, cut it in half and add it to the cherry peppers along with the black peppercorns and the bay leaf.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove the liquid mixture from the heat and immediately pour over the peppers.
Let the contents of the jar cool completely at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 1 week. The peppers will be ready for eating after 1 week and will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Pickled Jalapeno Pepper Slices

The number of jalapenos will depend on how large they are and what size jar you use. I love having these on hand for Mexican recipes. I used 3 jelly jars and about 16 peppers.

Ingredients

15-20 large jalapeños
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar)
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons honey or liquid sugar substitute
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Wear gloves to protect your fingers and remove the stem on each pepper. Slice the peppers into thin circles. Combine the prepared peppers and smashed garlic in jelly sized glass jars.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, honey, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sweetener into the liquid. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the liquid over the peppers. Use a butter knife to push down the peppers so they all fit and there aren’t any hidden air pockets.
Let the pickles cool to room temperature in the jar, then screw on the lid and refrigerate the pickles for several days before using. They are best when fresh but keep well for several months.



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