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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: radish

Italian Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Take advantage of the lower prices for red bell peppers this month. There are so many different ways to fill them and they make a delicious entrée for dinner.

For each 2 servings

Ingredients

1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup Tomato Sausage Sauce, recipe below
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F Coat a small baking dish or ramekin with olive oil cooking spray.

Slice the bell pepper in half lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds.

Place pepper halves in the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.

Remove the peppers from oven.

Mix the ricotta cheese with the salt and Parmesan cheese.

Fill each pepper half with ¼ cup of the tomato sausage sauce.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the meat sauce in each pepper cup.

Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of sausage sauce on top of the ricotta cheese in each pepper half.

Top each pepper with 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

You will only need a small portion of this sauce for the stuffed pepper recipe, depending on how many peppers you make. Leftover sauce can be used in a number of other dishes.

Ingredients

1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed (You could also use ground meat of your choice.)
¼ of a large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
26-28 oz container chopped Italian tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Place the oil in a large non-stick sauce pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage, onion, garlic and sea salt.

Cook until the sausage is brown. Drain off any grease in the pan.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Asian Meatball Soup

I prefer to use chicken for the meatballs in this recipe, so they are not heavy. I also like to use almond flour in Asian meatballs instead of all- purpose flour or breadcrumbs because I think the almond flour compliments Asian flavors much better. Asian cabbages are also in season during this month and they make a delicious option in your recipes.\

For the meatballs

1 lb organic ground chicken or ground meat of your choice
1 egg
2/3 cup almond flour/bread crumbs/all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
Pinch salt

For the broth

1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the vegetables

3 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 cups thinly sliced Napa or Bok Choy cabbage
1/2 cup radish sticks
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

To make the meatballs:

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a small cookie scoop, form into 24 bite-sized meatballs and place on a baking sheet covered with foil and coated with vegetable cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

\To make the soup:

In a large saucepan heat the sesame oil, garlic and ginger for about 1 minute or until sizzling. Add the chicken broth, water, soy sauce, fish sauce, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the vegetables and meatballs. Stir well. Bring back to a simmer and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes

Roasted Pumpkin

Have you ever thought of pumpkin as a savory side dish. I hadn’t either until I saw an article that suggested pumpkin was a fall squash that deserved more than being a pie. And they were right. It is delicious. Do not use a large decorative pumpkin. Instead use a sugar/cooking pumpkin between 2 and 3 lbs and your favorite spices.

Ingredients

2-3 lb fresh (cooking, sugar, pie) pumpkin, peeled & seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder or regular garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds.

Cut each half into 1″ thick slices

Place the oil on a baking sheet with sides.

Add the pumpkin slices and sprinkle the seasonings over the pumpkin.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and tinged brown at the edges.

Turning the slices over halfway through the cooking time.

Pan-cooked Broccoli Rabe with Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 pound/bunch broccoli rabe
1 pound thin Italian sausage made with parsley and Pecorino cheese (or luganega), cut into 3-inch lengths
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened with a large knife
Salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup (or as needed) water

Directions

Cut off the tough ends and stalks of the broccoli stems.

Wash the trimmed broccoli rabe in a sink filled with cold water, swishing the stems gently to remove all dirt from between the leaves.

Let the leaves sit a minute or two undisturbed to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom of the sink, then lift the broccoli rabe from the water with your hands and drain in a colander.

Place the broccoli in a deep skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and cook the broccoli until tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain and place on a kitchen towel to dry. Wipe out the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.

Add the sausage and cook, turning as necessary, until caramelized on all sides and no trace of pink remains in the center, about 8 minutes for thin sausage or longer for thicker sausages.

Remove the sausages to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the garlic to the oil. Cook, shaking the pan, until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Carefully lay the broccoli rabe into the oil, season lightly with salt and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Stir and toss to distribute the seasonings.

Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet and bring to a boil.

Cover the skillet tightly and cook, lifting the lid to turn the stalks occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender and the water evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Return the sausages to the skillet and heat until warmed through. Serve the sausages and broccoli rabe on a serving platter with crusty Italian bread.

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With family visiting for the holidays, I had plenty of leftovers to use up. Leftover vegetable dishes can become salads, such as my Green Bean Salad recipe. Leftover pork and steak can become new entrees. Leftover Tzatziki Sauce needed a new entre dish to accompany, so a middle eastern chicken dish is perfect. Leftover asparagus is always good in an omelet or a quiche. So many new meals from leftovers. Give your leftovers a makeover.

Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine

Serve this pasta with a Green Bean Salad.

4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large (16-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped plum tomato
4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute.

Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and salt. Turn the shrimp over once and cook until pink on all sides.

Stir in pasta and Parmesan cheese; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Place pasta mixture in individual heated pasta bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.

Serve immediately.

Green Bean Radish Salad

You can also use leftover cooked green beans for this salad.

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, trimmed
15 large red radishes, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Place the radishes and the cooled beans in a serving bowl .

Combine the olive oil, shallots, vinegar and lemon juice in a large measuring cup.

Pour over the radishes and green beans and toss to coat.

Let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Shawarma Pitas

Serve with a Greek Salad.

2 servings

Ingredients

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup finely diced peeled and seeded cucumber
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Chicken

1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon za’atar spice mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pita breads or lavash
1 small tomato, chopped
Thinly sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium.

Stir cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine garlic, za’atar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl.

Slice chicken breast crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; toss with the spice mixture to coat.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine.

Grill the chicken on a stove top grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

To serve:

Spread 1/4 cup of the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a pita (or lavash) and top with one-half of the chicken, tomato and lettuce.

Fold like a taco (or roll closed, if using lavash). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cuban Sandwich

Serve with Homemade Tomato Soup

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 cup leftover grilled pork tenderloin; thinly sliced
1 loaf Cuban or Italian bread or rolls
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 oz ham; thinly sliced
Yellow ballpark mustard
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices Provolone cheese
Dill pickle rounds
1/4 cup diced jarred banana peppers

Directions

Slice bread in half lengthwise and then in half horizontally. Butter the outside of the bread.

Spread mustard on the insides of the bread and layer each sandwich with 1/2 of remaining ingredients. Set tops of rolls in place and press down to flatten sandwiches.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat for 4 minutes.

Brush the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter and place them in the skillet buttered side down.

Brush the bottoms of the rolls with butter and use the preheated pot to compress the sandwiches for 15 to 20 seconds.

Cook (keeping the pot on the sandwiches but no longer pressing down) until the first side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the pot, turn the sandwiches over, replace the pot on top of the sandwiches, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Tart

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, light green and white portions
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1/2 lb leftover cooked asparagus, cut into one inch lengths
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce tube refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin and drained on paper towels
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften,4- 5 minutes.

Add the shallots and saute for another 3 minutes.

Add the Italian seasoning, asparagus, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Stir and remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs.

Pat the crescent roll dough into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the sliced, drained tomatoes over the dough.

Spread the asparagus mixture over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Steak Quesadilla with Homemade Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 ounces cooked steak, sliced thin
Homemade salsa, recipe below
Sour cream, optional

Directions

Brush a large frying pan with olive oil and heat the pan. Lay a tortilla on the bottom of the pan.

Cover evenly with one half of the steak, onion, jalapenos and cheese. Top with another tortilla shell.

Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the bottom tortilla begins to lightly brown and then use a wide spatula to turn the quesadilla over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into quarters and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Homemade Salsa

Ingredients

One 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime juice
A few dashes chipotle Tabasco sauce

Directions

Mix together and chill.


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.


salad night cover

A salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. To make a truly great salad, you’ve got to use ingredients that are fresh, ripe and in season.

If you think salads are limited to watery lettuce and a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, think again. There are endless amounts of wonderful combinations and you can make a salad as simple or as complex as you like. Spend a minute thinking about the contrasts of tastes and textures in the ingredients you are choosing and what sort of dressing you want to use, so you end up with something delicious and exciting every time.

THE BASE OF YOUR SALAD

The ingredient that forms the bulk of your salad is the base. And when we hear the word ‘salad’, lettuce is often the first ingredient that comes to mind because it is used as a base for so many salads. Oakleaf, cos or romaine lettuce and baby mixed lettuces, also make great salad bases, as do chicory, radicchio, arugula, watercress, baby spinach, tiny red-veined chard leaves, mustard leaves, pea shoots and sorrel. But plenty of salads don’t have any lettuce in them at all. You can make beautiful salads using cooked new potatoes, couscous, lentils, shredded cabbages or any other robust interesting vegetable. Use your imagination and you’ll never be bored.

PREPARING AND WASHING SALAD LEAVES

Wash your salad leaves before using them. Make sure your sink is clean then fill it with cold water. Gently wash the salad leaves in the water until they are clean and then transfer them to a salad spinner and spin dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, put them into a clean tea towel, gather the edges up and spin it around your head. Make sure the leaves are dry – if they aren’t, the salad dressing won’t cling to them. Keep them in the refrigerator or bowl under a damp cloth until you’re ready to use them.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU ADD TO A SALAD?

Raw crunchy veggies, like carrots or radishes, are great in salads. But they can be quite hard if they’re in big pieces, so finely slice them or shave them into ribbons with a peeler. Beets, spring onions, cucumber, squash and celery all work well. Cooked vegetables are also fantastic in salads. Peas, beans, asparagus and corn, cooked very quickly so they are not mushy, add flavor and color. Grilled slices of zucchini or pepper or even chunks of roasted squash or pumpkin also make salads much more interesting.

Adding soft herbs at the last-minute adds loads of extra flavor. Basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint or even thyme or marjoram tips are all great choices.

It’s also nice to add a bit of protein to a salad, especially if you’re having it as a main meal. Use your imagination; there are really no limits to what you can include. Try a few slices of smoked salmon, shredded roast chicken, cooked shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, cannellini beans, lentils or crumbled goat cheese.

For a bit of crunch, try adding a few nuts or seeds. Toasted or flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, crumbled walnuts and chopped cashews all work well.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRESSING

Think of your salad dressing as the link that brings all the ingredients in your salad together. There are loads of ready-made bottled dressings available in the markets, but it’s so easy to make your own, so try to get into the habit of doing that rather than buying them. Store-bought dressings are likely to contain lots of hidden ingredients and may be high in calories and sugar. Plus if you make your own, you can tweak it every time to suit the other ingredients in your salad.

The easiest way to make your salad dressing is in a clean jar. Just add all of your ingredients, pop the lid on and give it a good shake!

Most salad dressings contain an oil element – such as extra virgin olive oil, nut oil or sesame oil – and an acid element, such as balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Aim for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, then add any other ingredients you fancy. Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or some finely chopped fresh herbs or chillies can add loads of flavor. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, try stirring a spoonful of natural yogurt into the dressing.

Once dressed, salad leaves can wilt after a few minutes, so always add your dressing right before serving. If you want to ensure a really good even coating, using clean hands, quickly toss everything together. Just make sure you don’t add all of the dressing at once; add a little, mix it up, then have a taste before deciding whether you need to add more. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

salad night 1

Mediterranean Pita Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with a press
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1 large head romaine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 pita breads, toasted and broken into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, coriander and pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream until blended.

Add romaine, mint, parsley, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, cucumber and toasted pita and toss until blended. Serve immediately.

 

salad night 2Steak Salad with Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steak:

  • 1 rib-eye, strip loin or top sirloin steak (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 cups finely chopped hearts of Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta

Directions

To make dressing:

Whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Thin with up to 3 tablespoons of water so it dribbles off a spoon. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes to develop flavors. (Can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.) Makes 1 cup.

To prepare steak:

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill for high heat, pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

To prepare salad:

Make a bed of romaine on a large serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Arrange cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, avocado, olives and feta in mounds and place steak strips in the center. Pass the dressing on the side.

salad night 3

Crab Salad with Lemon Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

Crab

  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat

Salad

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives, more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/3 pound thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch endive, chopped in 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely chopped

Directions

For the crab:

Stir together shallot, hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and chives in a medium bowl. Add crabmeat and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

For the rest of the salad:

Whisk together mustard, shallot, vinegar, chives and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing slightly thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Steam Yukon gold potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are still warm, pour a tablespoon or two of dressing over them.

Steam green beans until tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly. Combine green beans with arugula, endive and radish. Toss with a tablespoon of dressing.

Toss fennel with remaining dressing in a small bowl. Check over the crab for any pieces of shell.

To serve:

Arrange greens on a platter or individual plates. Top with crab, fennel and eggs. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

salad night 4

Couscous Salad with Zucchini and Parsley

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo Beans (also called chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Directions

In a large, heatproof bowl, pour water over couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, tahini and salt in a second large bowl.

Thinly slice zucchini over dressing and then use kitchen shears to snip parsley leaves into the bowl; discard stems.

Add tomatoes, beans and couscous and toss gently to combine.

salad night 5

Grilled Chicken and Wheat-Berry Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, divided
  • 1 cup green apple, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and cook for 2 hours, 15 minutes or until wheat berries are almost tender.

Drain and place in a salad bowl; discard bay leaf.

For the salad dressing:

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate dressing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Preheat grill.

Coarsely chop the spinach leaves. Add spinach, apple, bell pepper and 3 tablespoons of the cucumber dressing to the wheat berries and toss well.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done. Thinly slice chicken.

Arrange chicken evenly over salad mixture; sprinkle with green onions. Pass dressing on the side.

 

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This time of year is perfect for lighter soups that showcase the flavors of seasonal vegetables. Taste isn’t the only reason for cooking up a big pot of spring soup. It can save you money, too. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cornell University scientists found that the cost per serving is usually lower for in season fresh food than for processed food. Further, a recent USDA Economic Research Service analysis found that fresh seasonal produce costs 12 to 18 cents per serving on average. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables will also provide you countless health benefits, thanks to an almost endless variety of nutrients.

Italians enjoy food in its most straightforward state—no fuss, just real ingredients in their purest form, allowing for the integrity the of the ingredients to shine. They also use the time of year as their guide and work with products available, visiting their local grocers or farmer’s markets to see what is fresh. The delicate flavors in these soups are a direct reflection of the new beginnings taking place around us in our environment. Sometimes the most effortless dish makes for the most appetizing meal.

These soups provide the perfect way to incorporate spring’s most green ingredients: peas, asparagus and artichokes, to name a few. All great soups start with the basics- carrots, onions and celery- with variations like shallots, leeks, garlic and even fennel. The goal of a great soup is to build upon the basics to create a wonderful and balanced set of flavors, which can take hours or just 30 minutes. When making Italian soups, it’s best to start with traditional ingredients and then add your own personal flair to achieve something new and unique. Soups are a great way to showcase your individuality and taste.

The first two soup recipes below are two of my favorites for this time of year and I make them on a regular basis. The last group of soups are ones that I adapted from the cookbook,The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti, Chronicle Books, 2006. They are great examples of the kinds of soups made in Italy and in Italian American homes, that utilize all the wonderful springtime produce that are found in markets this time of year. I have changed some of the ingredients and some of the techniques to suit my family’s palate.

Broccoli Leek Soup                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins.” Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups broth, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Return soup to the heat; add florets; bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add half-and-half and chives and reheat on low briefly.

4 servings

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup

Yield: 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Place barley in a bowl with just enough water to cover it.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in an 8-quart stockpot.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the olive oil, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken to stockpot, along with the salt and black pepper. Brown for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, vegetables and spices to the pot.

Drain the water from the barley. Add the barley to the soup.

Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium. Cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Use a variety of lettuces for a mix of colors and textures, especially radicchio. The greens lose their bright hue when you cook them, taking on muted, earthy tones. If you want to perk up the color, gently stir in another handful or two of spinach during the last few minutes of cooking. Adding a small rind of Parmigiano while the soup is simmering boosts the flavor of the broth.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head radicchio or escarole, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth or low-sodium commercial chicken broth
  • 1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly shaved or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and then stir in the butter and romaine lettuces, radicchio and spinach, tossing the greens so that they are well-coated with the other ingredients. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes or so, just until the greens have wilted.

Pour in the broth and add the Parmigiano rind. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Stir in the rice, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shaved or grated Parmigiano cheese.

Ladle the soup into a serving tureen or into individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining cheese.

Shepherd's Soup

Shepherd’s Soup

This recipe is Sardinian based and uses tender vegetables and broken spaghetti in a simmered milk-based broth. In Italy, this soup is made with fresh sheep’s milk or goat’s milk.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups cut-up thin green beans (1-inch pieces)
  • 7 baby carrots (3 to 4 inches long), halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound baby yellow or new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved or quartered (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups broken spaghetti (1-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine the milk and water and bring almost to a boil over medium-high heat (do not let the liquid boil over). Stir in the salt, green beans and carrots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a bare simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to turn tender. Add the potatoes and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just starting to soften. Stir in the pasta and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes if using frozen, or slightly longer if using fresh, or until they are tender but still bright green.

While the peas are cooking, put the cheese in a small bowl and add a few spoonfuls of the milky broth. Stir the cheese and hot broth together to make a thin paste and stir this paste into the soup until fully incorporated. Add a generous grinding of pepper and stir gently but thoroughly.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with an additional sprinkle of cheese.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Tender green asparagus, spring onions and fennel combine in this for a typical spring. Adding pearled barley to the mix gives it a little more substance. Accompany the soup with country bread for a one-dish supper.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 spring onions, bulbs and tender white part of stalks sliced crosswise, about 1 cup
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and quarters thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low-sodium commercial broth, heated to a simmer
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Put the barley on to cook before you start the soup: In a large saucepan, combine the water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the barley. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. It should not be mushy. Reduce the heat, if necessary, so that the barley cooks at a gentle, steady simmer. Drain the barley in a colander placed in the sink and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the barley is cooking, trim off the tough ends from the asparagus and discard them (or add them to the pot in which you are heating the broth to enhance its flavor; remove them before adding the broth to the soup).

Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Set aside the tips. You should have about 4 1/2 cups asparagus pieces, not including the tips.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and fennel, reduce the heat to medium-low and saute, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir vigorously to combine. Pour in 1 cup of the heated broth and stir for a minute or so to incorporate thoroughly.

Slowly pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and add the asparagus pieces — except for the reserved tips — and the parsley sprigs. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion or standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Stir in the cooked barley and asparagus tips and heat gently over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve the soup, stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Ladle the soup into a large serving bowl or tureen and top the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sweet Pea Soup With Radish

Makes 4 servings

For the radish topping:

  • 3 to 4 radishes, cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 small spring onion (bulb only), thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix together the radish and cucumber with the coarse salt. Place the radish and cucumber in a small colander set over a bowl and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and pat vegetables dry with paper towels.

Transfer the radishes and cucumbers to a bowl and stir in the spring onion, oil, sugar and a grinding of pepper. Gently toss to combine. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until serving time.

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spring onions or leeks (bulbs and tender parts of stalk)
  • 1 small sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 small sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth, or low-sodium commercial broth
  • 4 cups shelled peas (about 4 pounds in the pod) or 4 cups good quality frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mascarpone or ricotta cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the spring onions and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they have softened but are not browned. Add the marjoram and thyme and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Pour in the broth, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Carefully tip in the peas and cook for 6 to 8 minutes for fresh peas; 3 to 4 minutes for frozen, or until they are just tender but still bright green. Take off the heat and remove and discard the sprigs of marjoram and thyme. Using an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Return the soup to medium heat and stir in the milk, salt and pepper to taste. Heat until just warmed through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta cheese and top with a spoonful of radish mixture.

 



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