Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peppers

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I am sure you have heard of Chicken Cacciatore but how about Beef Cacciatore? I came up with this recipe when I had several beef round roasts in the freezer and did not want to make a traditional pot roast. This is a great dish to make at this time of year. Assemble it and put in the oven and then you can go on with your holiday preparations. Cook some pasta or mashed potatoes and you have dinner.

A typical bottom round roast that weighs 3 to 4 pounds should be slow roasted in a Dutch Oven for about 4 hours for a tender roast with an internal temperature of 165 to 170 F(74 to 77 °C) . Preheat the oven to 300 °F (149 °C) and slow roast the meat for 3 to 4 hours, depending on the weight.

Beef Cacciatore

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 lb boneless bottom round roast (also called rump)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 (28 ounce) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
8 oz Pappardelle Pasta

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown the roast on all sides in the oil in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

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Add the garlic, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Let them cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine, tomatoes, seasoning and some additional salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Cook for about four hours or until very tender. Turn the roast over several times during cooking.

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Remove the roast to a large plate and let rest for ten minutes. Slice thin.

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

Bring the sauce to a boil in the Dutch Oven and reduce the heat to low. Add the drained pasta and let heat for a minute or two.

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Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and place the sliced beef on top.

Serve this meal with a green salad.


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The reason grass-fed meat is generally healthier for you is because it is lower in overall fat and saturated fat and it provides a higher amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat.

Opt for organic. The use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics is not allowed in certified organic beef production. Nor is feed made from animal by products..

Go for grass. Choose beef from cattle that were 100 percent “grass-fed”. ” These animals are raised on their natural diet of grass from birth to market and are not given antibiotics and hormones. Look for a grass-fed label from the American Grassfed Association.

Look at labels. Check for phrases like “Naturally Raised,” “No Hormones Added,” “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “Never Fed Animal Byproducts.”

Portion control: 5-6 oz of meat is more than adequate to satisfy. Serve vegetables and salad for menu balance.

Grass-fed meat requires less time to cook than grain-fed meat. Since it is generally leaner, with less fat to keep it moist, it will cook faster at the same level of heat. Grass-fed meat is best cooked medium rare to medium, or it will become tough. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part. At 135°F the meat is still rare. At 145°F to 155°F it will be medium. Above that the meat may lose its moisture and tenderness.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes after cooking it to help redistribute the juices inside. Do not cut it immediately since the juices will spill out, leaving a drier texture. For the same reason, turn meat with a spatula or tongs rather than a fork.

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Pan-Seared Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 rib-eye steaks (preferably grass-fed and organic) (about 12 oz. each and 1 inch thick), all fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut each steak in half lengthwise (to make four steaks) and pat them dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

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Place a 12-inch heavy frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, place the steaks in the pan and sear until deeply browned on both sides and medium rare, 2 minutes per side (no more than that). Transfer the steak to a serving to a plate.

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Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan. As it comes to a boil, deglaze the pan by stirring the bottom of the pan well with a wooden spoon. Add the steaks; pour in the marinara sauce and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the steaks, cover the pan and heat just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

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Grilled Onion Burger

For 2

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. grass-fed organic ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • Half red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 hamburger rolls
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Divide the ground beef in half. Using a hamburger press form 2 burgers.

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Sprinkle with the steak seasoning and refrigerate until cooking time.

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For the onions: heat the oil in a small skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook until tender and set aside while you grill the burgers.

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I prefer to grill burgers instead of cooking them on top of the stove, so heat an outdoor grill to medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Spray the burgers on both sides with cooking spray and place them on the grill. Cook 4 minutes and turn them over. Cook for another 4 minutes. Toast the rolls on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the toasted rolls and divide the cook ed onions between the two burgers. Add ketchup, if desired

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Pot Roast with Onion Gravy and Mustard Sauce

For a leaner pot roast, choose a bottom round or rump roast. Chuck roast is a bit more tender, but fattier.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • One 3-pound (organic and grass-fed) rump or bottom round roast, trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

To prepare pot roast:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.. Add the beef; cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove beef to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions; cook, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and orange zest; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Return the beef to the pot, nestling it among the onions. Add the wine to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F..

Cover the pot with a lid and transfer to the oven and bake until the beef is tender, 3 – 3 1/2 hours. Turn the meat several times during the cooking process.

To prepare the mustard sauce:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and pepper in a small serving bowl. Reserve in the refrigerator until serving time.

To make the gravy:

Transfer the roast to a clean cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Skim fat from the liquid in the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; add to the liquid and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the meat and serve with the gravy and the mustard sauce.

The roast is delicious served with roasted carrots, parsnips and asparagus

Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat the sliced pot roast with gravy in a skillet over medium-low heat. The mustard sauce can be covered and refrigerated separately for up to 2 days.


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It’s harvest time and the last of summer’s fresh fruit and vegetables are coming to market. Salad ingredients, beets, cucumbers and peppers are all still available. And there should still be plenty of zucchini, green beans, spinach and corn to play a supporting role on your dinner plate.

The first autumn/winter vegetables are putting in an appearance now in the shape of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, pumpkins and mushrooms,

Apples and pears are plentiful, too. It’s also time to enjoy the last of the berries, plums and tomatoes. Comfort food is back.

Spinach Bacon Quiche

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Ingredients

  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Half a sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups leftover cooked spinach or frozen and defrosted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the bacon until crisp in a medium skillet. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Crumble when cool.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and saute the chopped onion in the remaining bacon fat. Add the spinach, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.

In a measuring cup, combine the eggs and half & half.

Take the pie shell out of the refrigerator and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese evenly on the bottom of the pie crust. Then sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Spread the spinach onion mixture over the bacon.

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Slowly pour the egg mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake the quiche for about 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and puffy and the quiche does not “wobble” in the center when gently moved

Let the quiche rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Fall Beet Salad

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2 servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for coating the beets
  • 3 golden beets
  • 1 Valencia orange, peel removed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the dressing: Whisk the orange zest, raspberry vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper together in a small  mixing bowl. Set aside.

For the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the beets on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool. Peel and cut into thin rounds.

Arrange the beets, orange slices and sliced fennel on a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped shallots. Drizzle with half of the dressing of the dressing and reserve the remaining dressing to serve with the salad,

Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

Chicken with Corn Salsa

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2 servings

Corn Salsa (see recipe link here)

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (see recipe link here)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Combine to make a paste
  • Rub the paste over both sides of 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

For grilling on a gas grill:

Prepare a gas grill for indirect heat: Turn all burners to high and close the lid. When the temperature inside the grill reaches 400°F, lift lid and turn off one of the burners.

The area over the turned-off burner is the indirect heat area.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Place chicken skin side down over the indirect-heat area; close the lid and cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, close the lid and cook another 10 minutes.

Move chicken over direct heat and cook, turning once, until skin is well browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Watch carefully; dripping fat or any added oils catch fire easily (a small spray bottle filled with water is handy for taming flames).

Place the cooked chicken on individual plates and place corn salsa on the side.

Zucchini Vegetable Kebabs

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The kebabs go well with any grilled meat or fish.

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small measuring cup.

For the Kebabs

  • 2 skewers
  • Vegetables cut into one inch pieces:
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup red bell peppers
  • 1 cup red onion

Directions

Combine the marinade and vegetables in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Remove vegetables from the marinade and thread on skewers, alternating the vegetables. Place the skewers on the grill and cook 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until tender.

Mac & Cheese

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This makes a wonderful side dish for grilled meat or fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried short pasta (mezze penne, elbows)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup butter, diced
  • ½ cup instant flour (Wondra)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz 2% milk Velveeta processed cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 oz mild cheddar, shredded
  • ½ cup dried plain breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot mix the cold milk with the instant flour; add the butter and place the pan on medium heat.

Stirring often, bring the sauce to boiling, reduce heat and cook until thickened, whisking often. Add the salt, mustard and cayenne. Add the velveeta cheese and heat until melted.

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

Mix the breadcrumbs and shredded cheddar together and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

(The casserole can be made ahead to this stage and refrigerated until baking time. Add 15 minutes to the baking time if the casserole is refrigerated.)

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until heated through.

 


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Snacks for game watching or parties are fun to have on hand. They do not have to be unhealthy to taste really good. My kind of snacks have always been a big hit with family and guests – so give them a try. I have never heard that they didn’t go over well. In fact, I get many requests for the recipes. The sports season begins this week, so get ready.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

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Pumpkin seeds can be seasoned, roasted in the oven and eaten as a healthy snack. They’re a very good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants; and they’re also a good source of protein, zinc, copper and iron. Besides – they taste good.

Make a double batch – they go fast.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw, dry pumpkin seeds (be sure they are not salted)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the seeds with the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and honey in a mixing bowl.

Spread the seeds on a baking pan.

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Roast the coated seeds until golden, about 15 – 20 minutes. Scrape the pan and stir the seeds as they cool to prevent sticking. After about 10 minutes cooling on the pan, the seeds will stick together.

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They are easy to separate and will finish cooling without sticking after they are separated.

Remove to a serving bowl or store in an airtight container.

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

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Pimentón is the Spanish version of paprika that adds a little smokiness to a recipe. It comes in three types with varying levels of heat. Dulce is slightly sweet with very little heat, agridulce has only a trace of sweetness but a lot of heat and picante is quite hot with just a trace of bitterness.

This is not the typical hummus made with tahini (sesame paste). This hummus uses sun-dried tomatoes and has delicious flavor from the Pimentón. The dip go very well with the homemade pita chips.

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Ingredients

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained but reserve the bean liquid
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pimentón agridulce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pita chips (recipe below) and  raw vegetables, for serving.

Directions

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid separately.

Put the chickpeas and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and process until chunky.

Add salt, pepper, the garlic and pimentón and process; then add the sun-dried tomatoes and sun dried tomato oil. Process until very smooth.

Add some of the reserved bean liquid to thin the sauce to dipping consistency.

Serve with homemade pita chips and cut up vegetables.

Homemade Pita Chips

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Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.

Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix. Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.

Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large ziplock bag until needed.

Small Wraps

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Small hand foods are popular and easy to eat while you are watching a game. These can be filled with anything you like and cut as small as you like. Here are some suggestions.

Ingredients

  • Whole-grain tortillas, lavash bread or lettuce leaves
  • Drizzle of oil and vinegar

Protein Filling Ingredients

  • Thinly sliced roast turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef
  • Tuna
  • Hummus
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nut Butters
  • Edamame

Vegetable Filling Ingredients

  • Greens: lettuce, baby spinach, kale, Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocado
  • Zucchini Slices
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Pickled Cucumbers, Peppers or other Pickled Vegetables

Spreads

  • Light Mayonnaise
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Mustard
  • Hummus
  • Mashed Avocado
  • Relish

Directions

Choose a type of wrap or use a variety. Choose a spread and cover the wrap on one side.

Layer the wrap with a protein and veggies of choice. Drizzle with a little oil and vinegar. Roll-up tightly and place on a serving dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until game time.

Pepper and Corn Salsa

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The fresh flavors of this seasonal salsa is what makes it taste so good. Homemade chips make it taste even better.

Ingredients

  • 3 bell peppers, seeded and diced (use a variety of colors)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper Flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Homemade tortilla chips

Directions

Place the diced vegetables and corn to a medium serving bowl.

Add the lime juice, salt, pepper and cayenne to the bowl. Mix well. Let the flavors combine for at least twenty minutes before serving.

Serve either at room temperature or slightly chilled with tortilla chips.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • One package (8-10) large (12 inch) flour tortillas
  • Taco seasoning mix, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two rimmed baking sheets.

Brush the tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle each with taco seasoning. Cut the tortillas into 8 triangles and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, mix all together. Store in an airtight container.

 

 


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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer is a great time to entertain and if you can do it outdoors, it is even better. Casual get-togethers call for easy to do recipes using foods that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you are hosting or attending such a party, thoughts usually run along the “what should I make” category. Since I live where it is quite hot six months of the year, I tend not to serve or take mayonnaise flavored dishes. Here are some ideas for each menu course of what to make or bring to an outdoor party. These have all been stamped with approval from my family and friends.

Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms

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Ingredients

  • 3 lb mixed fresh mushrooms
  • 3 oz. dried mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice fresh mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until tender — about 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze to dry.

Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Cook, while stirring frequently, over high heat until the mushrooms release their liquid — about 10 minutes.

Add the shallots, garlic, rehydrated mushrooms. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add broth, cognac, butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and the thyme.

Transfer skillet to the oven and roast, stirring twice, for 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serve warm with grilled bread.

Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad

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This is a popular dish, so I often divide the salad onto smaller serving dishes, so I can have them available in several areas.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds tomatoes,  quartered
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish

Directions

Oil the grill grates and preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Whisk together the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

Mix the shrimp with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Grill the shrimp, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.

Mix the grilled shrimp with the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature.

Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers

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This dish is always a big hit with everyone.

Serves 6

For the sausage:

  • 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage

Directions

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

Keep a third of the grill indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over two-thirds of the firebox and leaving one-third coal-free.

On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Lightly brush or rub the sausage with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F.

Cut the sausages into two-inch lengths and set aside.

For the peppers and onions:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To finish the dish:

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

Add the tomato sauce and heat.

Add the grilled sausage links to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Heat until the sausage is warm. Serve with lots of crusty Italian bread.

Side Dish: Corn Pudding

cornpudding

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh (about 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish or another shallow baking dish of about the same size.

In a mixing bowl combine the onion, bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn and the salt and black pepper; Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1 cup of corn and half-and-half in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the eggs and cayenne. Blend thoroughly.

Spoon the corn/pepper mixture into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle the Monterey Jack over the top. Pour the egg mixture over all.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 40 minutes.Garnish with chopped parsley.

Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler

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Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 to 6 medium (4 cups) peaches, peeled and sliced

Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the filling ingredients except the peaches in a mixing bowl.

Stir in peaches. Pour into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.

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Make the topping:

Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in the egg and cream just until moistened. Spread the topping over the peach filling; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar.

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Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Serve warm or chilled.

 


IMG_0007

Tomatoes were yellow and orange-colored at the beginning of the tomato’s cultivation, with the color red becoming more prevalent through many years of breeding. Today, there are hundreds of different types of tomatoes in colored varieties that include red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and black. Some tomatoes, like Heirloom and cherry, come in many varieties, as well.

Most people consider the red tomato varieties the most popular, especially the Beefsteak and Roma varieties. Pink tomatoes have similar flavors to the red ones, that include the Pink Girl and Brandywine varieties. Orange tomato varieties include Persimmon and Mountain Gold and they are usually sweeter than red tomatoes, due to a higher sugar content. Yellow varieties, such as Golden Boy and Garden Peach, are similar to the orange type, but are usually less tangy than red tomatoes. There are green tomato varieties (not just unripened tomatoes) that ripen green and usually have a lower acidic taste than red tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato SauceIMG_0009

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed

Herbs

Place the following  herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

IMG_0008

Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook  until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

IMG_0011

Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.

Pepper Pizza

IMG_0010

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 cups fresh tomato sauce, see recipe above
  • 1 ½ cups leftover sautéed peppers and onions, see recipe here
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, cut into strips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Move an oven rack to lowest position in the oven.

Press the dough out on a greased pizza pan. Top the dough with the sliced mozzarella.

IMG_0008 (2)

Spread the sauce over the cheese. Place the peppers and onions evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with the hot pepper.

IMG_0009 (2)

Place the pizza in the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place the prosciutto slices evenly on top.

Return the pizza to the oven for about a minute or two to warm the prosciutto. Set the pizza on the counter on top of a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Red Wine Tomato JamIMG_0004 (1)

Tomato Jam is great on burgers in place of ketchup or served alongside grilled meat or fish. It also pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and cured meats. I like to serve it as an appetizer, as part of a cheese board selection.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes), cored and quartered
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, sugar, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 2-second pulses.

In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.

IMG_0002

Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, until it is glossy and has a jam like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).

Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.

IMG_0003

 



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