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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Swiss Chard

This dinner makes use of the Swiss chard and the Acorn squash that are now in season. The lemons are from my Meyer Lemon tree.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

3-4 servings

Ingredients

1 large bunch Swiss Chard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut out the central rib and stem from each leaf. Cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Rinse the leaves in a sink of cool water, lifting them into a colander to drain a bit (leaving some water on the leaves).

Place the damp leaves in a deep skillet. Cover the pan and cook the leaves for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat the oil in the same skillet and add the garlic and shallot. Cook for two minutes. Add the chard leaves and salt and pepper, stir and reduce the heat to low.

Cook the greens until tender, about 10 minutes.

Pistachio Salmon With Meyer Lemon Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 coho salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios

Sauce

1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F

Place the salmon in a small oiled baking pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with mayonnaise and sprinkle with pistachios.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through its center.

In a small saucepan, cook and stir the shallot in oil over medium-high heat until tender. Add the cream, lemon peel, lemon juice, salt and cayenne and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Serve the salmon over the Swiss chard and spoon the lemon sauce over all. Serve immediately.

Parmesan-Roasted Acorn Squash

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 acorn squash, ends removed, seeded and cut into 4 one-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 375° F.

In a baking dish, toss the squash slices with the oil, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Roast the squash until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes.

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Cod Pomodoro

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Half of a small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, plus a few fennel fronds
Half of a small onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
Two 4-ounce skinless cod fillets
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat.

Add minced garlic, sliced fennel, onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add spices and cook, stirring, until spices are absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add marinara sauce to the skillet; bring to a simmer and cook to meld the flavors, about 5 minutes.

Season fish with salt and pepper and place the fillets in the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the fish.

Place the pan in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the fish is firm when touched with a fork.

Remove the pan from the oven and top the fish with the mozzarella cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese melts.

Serve the fish with the sauce.

Baked Eggplant Slices

Place the eggplant into the oven about ten minutes before you place the fish in the oven.

2 or more servings

1 small eggplant, peeled
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for the baking pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a baking pan with oil. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg with 1 tablespoons water. In another shallow dish mix the Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs.

Cut the eggplant into thin slices. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off.

Dredge the slices in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down gently to coat well. Transfer the breaded slices to the baking pan.

Bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Turn the slices over and continue to bake until lightly browned on other side, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven, serve plain or drizzle with a little marinara sauce, if desired.

Swiss Chard Sautéed with Garlic and Lemon

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large bunches Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2” pieces (about 12 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Wash Swiss chard well and place in a colander.

With some water clinging to the leaves, immediately transfer the washed chard to a large, deep skillet.

Cook the chard over low heat until almost wilted, 3-4 minutes. Drain the chard in a colander.

In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing often, until completely softened, about 4-5 minutes.

Add lemon juice and cook, tossing, about 1 minute; adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.


World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. Experts from all over the world came together to promote the importance of spreading knowledge of the world’s numerous types of pasta. This organization uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.

Everything from encouraging consumers to try new pastas to providing important health information is part of their mission. Every country is encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way, while sharing the logo of the official organization and participating in the global strategy of World Pasta Day. One of the best ways to celebrate World Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite pasta at home. Here are a few of mine.

Stuffed Shells

3-4 stuffed shells per serving.

Ingredients

6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21-22 shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound (2 bunches) fresh spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce

Directions

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the leaves into thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.

Add the greens, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted.

Cover the pan and simmer until the leaves are very tender, about ten minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooled, cooked greens.

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the dish with foil.

Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.

Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

8 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ cups pasta water
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise the heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl.

Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Serves 2-3

Salt to taste
8 ounces penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large zucchini, about one pound
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.

Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.

Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.

Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.

Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or Ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the Burrata cheese.

Pasta Roll-Ups

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Two 28-oz containers whole tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 dried lasagna noodles
Two 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Two 15-oz containers ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add the ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink.

Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from the thawed spinach and place in large bowl.

Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up.

Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.


The market was full of lovely produce this week and, therefore, very difficult to decide what to purchase. I settled on several baskets of beautiful tomatoes and bright green Swiss chard. Redfish is in season here and it is a fish we like a lot, so this recipe was made with redfish. You can use any white fish fillets that you like. You may also add rice if you want another side. The parsley butter adds a lot of flavor and it can also be used on other meats. It is even a good on vegetables. The muffins make a good addition to this dinner. This dinner is also gluten-free and would work perfectly if you had a family member or guests that needed this special diet. On the other hand, this dinner is delicious for anyone.

Fish Fillets With Parsley Butter and Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb white fish fillets of choice
1 tablespoon Parsley Butter, per fish fillet
Roasted Tomatoes, recipe below
Kalamata Olives, pitted

Spice Rub

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt

Parsley Butter

1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (If you use unsalted butter, add ½ teaspoon of salt)
1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 teaspoons grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

For the Parsley Butter:

Be sure the butter is at room temperature and soft enough to mash with a fork.

In a small bowl mash the butter and add the remaining ingredients. Mix very well, cover and chill until it is time to cook the fish.

For the Spice Rub:

In small bowl, combine the black pepper, paprika, onion powder and seasoning salt.

To cook the fish:

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the Spice Rub on both sides of the fish fillets.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium. Cook the fillets about 4 minutes on one side.

Remove the fish to a serving plate and place 1 tablespoon of Parsley Butter on each piece of fish.

In the same pan place the roasted tomatoes and olives. Heat until warm and spoon next to the fish on the serving plate.

Note: The Parsley Butter will keep at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Roasted Tomatoes

Make this recipe early in the day or even the day before and refrigerate them in a covered container.

Ingredients

2 pints miniature mixed heirloom tomatoes
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the ingredients in a single layer in a baking pan.

Roast for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are caramelized and have released their liquid. Pour into a serving bowl.

Use as a side dish, as an ingredient in a main dish or on pizza. Drizzle some of the thickened balsamic sauce on each serving.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2 bunches of swiss chard, washed in several changes of water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Directions

Drain the washed chard very well. With a knife, remove and discard the chard’s stems that run up the middle of each leaf.

Cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic and black pepper.

Heat, covered, for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender.

Add the chard leaves and cook, covered, another 3-5 minutes until the leaves are wilted and brightly colored.

Add a tablespoon of water to the pan if it seems like the leaves are getting too dry.

Add salt to taste and serve.

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

12-15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin tin

Ingredients

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup coconut flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cupcake holders

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Spray the inside of the liners with cooking spray to make for easier removal.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar, coconut flour, poppy seeds and baking powder.

In a large measuring cup or medium mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, eggs, almond milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups filling them ¾ of the way and bake 25 to 35 minutes, until tops are just golden brown and the muffins are set. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

 


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.

The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.

Olive Trees

The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.

 

For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,

THE NEW MEDITERRANEAN DIET COOKBOOK: A DELICIOUS ALTERNATIVE FOR LIFELONG HEALTH

Nancy advises:

Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.

Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.

Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.

Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.

Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.

Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.

 

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin

Directions

Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.

Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.

Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.

Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.

All-Purpose Dressing

Ingredients

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.

Tapenade

Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.

Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.

Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).

Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper

Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.

Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.

Sautéed Greens

Ingredients

3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Directions

Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.

Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.

Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.


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The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.  The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.

laquila-province-main

The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.

1280px-il_gran_sasso_ditalia_il_paretone_nord

Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.

1280px-rocca_calascio

The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.

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L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.

ovindoli-l-aquila-001

The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.

Abruzzo Food Map

Abruzzo Food Map

The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.

Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.

Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.

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Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.

The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.

Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.

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Prosciutto and Fichi

The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.

Ingredients

Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..

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Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.

Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.

Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.

 

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Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Directions

Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.

Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.

Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.

Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.

Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.

Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.

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Dolci: Pizzelle

Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.

Makes about 36 pizzelle

Ingredients

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions

Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

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Looking for some ideas to make your veggie dishes more appealing? Try stuffing them. These recipes can serve as a main course or a side dish. I wanted to use vegetables that you do not see stuffed very often and that are in season at this time of year, instead of cooking the usual peppers and tomatoes. Try these recipes for an interesting change.

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Swiss Chard Rolls

5 servings

Ingredients

2 bunches Swiss chard, about 10 leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup quick cooking barley
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced Swiss chard stems
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/13 plus 2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place the Swiss chard leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain and place on paper towels.

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Remove the ribs/stems from each leaf and set the leaves aside. Chop enough of the stems to measure ¼ cup.

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the 1 ⅓ cups vegetable broth to a boil and add a pinch of salt.

Add the barley, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook the barley for ten minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the barley rest covered for five minutes.

In a small skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and Swiss chard stems. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until they soften. Add salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning.

Add the chopped tomatoes, basil and cheese. Cook until the tomatoes soften. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add this mixture to the cooked barley and stir well.

Set aside until the mixture is cool enough to handle.

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Divide the stuffing equally among the leaves, about 2-3 tablespoons for each leaf.

Bring the edges of the leaves, about 1/2 inch, toward the center and roll and tuck into a ball or a cigar shape.

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Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the Swiss chard rolls in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and pour the 2 cups of stock over the rolls. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

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Spinach Stuffed Squash

2 servings

2 large yellow squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup panko crumbs
2.5 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut a thin slice off the top of each squash. With a spoon carefully remove the flesh of the squash without cutting into the outer shell. I use a grapefruit spoon to remove the flesh.

Finely chop the squash flesh.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chopped squash; cook 5 minutes or until transparent. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the panko crumbs and cheese.

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Spoon mixture evenly into the squash shells. Place in a greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

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Cheeseburger Stuffed Onions

If you would like to make this dish vegetarian, substitute a grain, such as quinoa or rice for the meat in the recipe.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 medium sweet onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons bell pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon chili (red) pepper flakes
1/4 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Topping: 2 slices of American cheese, each folded into quarters

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice from the top of each onion and reserve. Trim just enough from the bottom of the onions so they can stand upright.

Remove the dry skin and the outermost layer of each onion. Use a spoon or an ice cream scoop to remove the inner layers of the onion, forming a bowl with about 3-4 layers thick.

Dice the removed inner section of one of the onions and set aside. Save remaining sections for another use.

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Prepare the stuffing:

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add reserved diced onion and bell pepper and saute just until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Add garlic, fennel seeds and chili flakes and saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add meat, stirring to crumble the meat and saute until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the basil, salt and pepper.

Divide the stuffing evenly into each onion bowl, mounding it up. Wrap each onion in two layers of aluminum foil and bake in the oven about 45 minutes, or until tender.

Unwrap onions and top each with a slice of folded cheese. Return to the oven unwrapped and heat until the cheese begins to melt.

Transfer to a serving plate. Serve hot.



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