Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

Asparagus Quiche

This is the right time of year to buy asparagus. They are in season and the price is low. Of course, you will get tired of them, if you cook asparagus the same way each time you serve them. Have you tried asparagus in a quiche or an omelet? Delicious – give it a try. Double the ingredients and make a second quiche for the freezer.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 slices bacon
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 eggs
1/2 cup half & half cream
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread asparagus on the baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the bacon strips on one end of the pan.

Roast until the asparagus are tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one inch pieces. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and crumble.

Lower oven temperature to 350°F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.

Arrange the roasted asparagus, crumbled bacon and shallots over the bottom of the crust.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper. Whisk together until well combined.

Pour over asparagus.Top with the cheese.

Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Colcannon

Cabbage is beautiful this time of year – mild and tender – so take advantage of one of the season’s best vegetables. Colcannon is popular because it combines the cabbage with potatoes for a delicious side dish.

Ingredients

6 Servings

Ingredients

4 large baking potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut into small cubes
Kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, minced
Half a large head of green cabbage, thinly shredded
1 1/2 cups half & half
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh chives

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet with a cover over medium heat.

Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8–10 minutes.

Add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring often until the cabbage is soft and tender.

Add half & half and bring to a simmer.

Add potatoes and remaining butter and cook until the potatoes are hot and most of the half & half is absorbed.

Coarsely mash with a potato masher and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the colcannon to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with chives.

This recipe can be prepared ahead and reheated in a moderate oven or in the microwave just before serving.

Grilled Chicken Over Greek Salad

This is one of my favorite dishes. So many delicious ingredients – all in one bowl. This salad works in any season and the chicken doesn’t have to be grilled. It can be sautéed or baked in the oven,

Serves 2

For the chicken marinade

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 ½ tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Large pinch sea salt
Dash black pepper
2 small or one large boneless chicken breast

For the salad

One heart of romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 1⁄2″ pieces
Half a cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1⁄4″ pieces
1⁄2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
½ bell pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon. red wine vinegar
1⁄8 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz. feta, crumbled
8 kalamata olives
4 Tuscan (pepperoncini) peppers
Pita bread

Directions

To prepare the chicken

In a glass measuring cup, mix the first seven ingredients together.

Place the chicken breasts in a storage dish with a cover and pour the marinade over the meat. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

Prepare an outdoor grill or heat an indoor grill.

Place the meat on the hot grill and turn the chicken about every 4 minutes until the chicken registers 165 degrees internal meat temperature. Set on a plate to cool while you prepare the salad.

To prepare the salad

Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onions in a salad bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar and oregano; season with salt and pepper and pour over the salad mixture. Toss and top with feta, olives, pepperoncini and sliced chicken.

Serve with warm pita bread.

Open-Face Reuben – My Way

This sandwich can be made with any leftover meat. I just happened to have corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day on hand. I have use sliced turkey, chicken and steak in the past for this sandwich and they all turned out well. I usually bake oven fries with this dish which take about 20 minutes. Put the sandwich in the oven after the potatoes have baked for ten minutes.

For 2

Ingredients

2 large slices rye bread; see link for my homemade rye bread recipe
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/03/17/happy-st-pats-day/
10 slices cooked corned beef
4 slices swiss cheese
½ cup sauerkraut, drained
4 tablespoons mustard sauce, recipe below

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toast the bread and place it on a foil lined baking pan. Spread 2 tablespoons of the mustard sauce on each piece of toasted bread. Arrange the meat slices on top.

Place 1/4 cup sauerkraut on top of each sandwich and top with two slices of cheese. Place the sandwiches in the oven for 10 minutes so the meat can heat and the cheese melt.

Serve with some great pickles.

For the Guinness Mustard Sauce:

1/4 cup stone ground mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
½ teaspoon horseradish powder (ground)
4 tablespoons Guinness beer

In medium bowl combine mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish and sour cream together. Slowly whisk in beer. Chill in the refrigerator.

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Sometimes you don’t want to spend several hours in the kitchen fixing dinner but you want something really good. This dinner fits that description – quick to make and great taste all together.

Swordfish In Pesto Cream

2 servings

Ingredients

1 swordfish fillet, about 12 oz
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup rice cooked according to package directions

Directions

Season both sides of the swordfish with salt and black pepper. Cut the fish into two equal pieces.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, pesto and lemon zest. Add mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Transfer the cooked rice to a serving platter. Top the rice with the fish and spoon the sauce over the top.

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Green Beans With Tomato

2 servings

Ingredients

½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed
¼ cup water
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until the shallot softens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add the green beans, tomatoes, oregano and water. Cook until the beans are crisp-tender, stirring and tossing occasionally, about 10 minutes.


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It is a gray and rainy day here – just perfect for a soup dinner. I also know I have a turkey carcass in the freezer that was leftover from the holidays and it is time to put it to good use.
I also save small amounts of leftover vegetables in the freezer in little ziplock bags. These little bags are perfect for adding to soup recipes and they don’t require additional cooking.

farro

Of course, almost any ingredient that you like can go into a soup pot, but I usually try to vary them, so that it doesn’t seem like the same old soup. In this soup recipe, I used farro instead of rice or pasta. Farro is hulled wheat that has been used in the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice in Italian recipes.

Hearty Italian Turkey Soup

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For the stock

1 roasted turkey carcass, broken in pieces, plus any additional bones
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 celery stalk tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Water

Directions

Place the turkey carcass in a very large soup pot. Add the other ingredients and add enough water to just cover the turkey bones.

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Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubbling simmer, partially cover the pot and let the stock cook for two hours.

Remove the pot from the heat. With tongs take the turkey bones out of the stock and place them in a wide bowl to cool. Strain the stock in a colander covered with cheesecloth.

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This recipe makes about 12 cups of stock. I also had about 2 cups of meat from the bones that I chopped and set aside.

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For the soup

12 cups turkey stock
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cups canned
3 large carrots, diced
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup pearl onions (frozen are great-no peeling)
1 cup cooked, diced asparagus
2 cups cooked, diced green beans
2 cups cooked baby lima beans
2 cups cooked peas
2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat

Directions

Rinse the soup pot out and pour the strained stock into the pot. Add the water, salt, carrots, tomatoes and farro.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until the farro is tender. Taste one of the grains to be sure.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt, if needed.

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When the children come for a visit, they are not interested in experimental dishes. So, I don’t make recipes that I am testing, when they are here. Tried and true – old favorites –  is what they look for. I have shared some of their favorites in the past and here are a few more. Hope you like them, also.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

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Serve this dish with a green vegetable or salad.

Ingredients

Chicken

4 chicken breast halves, bone-in and skin removed
1 slice sandwich bread
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Potatoes

1 pound medium baking potatoes, cut into ¼ inch rounds
One lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a roasting pan or baking dish, combine the sliced potatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Set aside.

Place the slice of bread in the food processor and process until bread into crumbs.

In small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder and tarragon.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brush the mayonnaise mixture on top of the chicken breasts and spread evenly to coat.

Sprinkle each breast with 1/4 of the bread crumbs, pressing them to adhere to the chicken.

Place the chicken on top of the potatoes in the baking pan. Place the pan in oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

Oven Fried Fish with Tartar Sauce

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I have found that heating the baking pan in the oven before placing the fish on it, will make the fish extra crispy.

Serve this dish with broccoli or spinach and macaroni and cheese.

For every 2 servings, you will need:

Ingredients

1 lb white fish fillets
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 drops hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking pan
Tartar Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Spread the olive oil in a baking pan and place the pan in the oven when you turn it on.

Dry the fillets with paper towels. Combine the lemon juice, buttermilk, hot pepper sauce and garlic in a shallow dish.

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Combine the white pepper, salt and onion powder with panko crumbs and place in a second shallow dish.

Let fillets sit in the buttermilk mixture for a few minutes. Then coat the fillets on both sides with seasoned crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto the fish.

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Place the coated fish on a plate and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to cook, place the fillets on the hot baking sheet and bake 12 minutes on the middle oven rack. Using a wide spatula, turn the fillets over after 6 minutes. Serve with tartar sauce, if you like it.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced capers
Few drops of hot sauce
½ teaspoon agave syrup

Directions

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Refrigerate until serving time.

Italian Sausage, Tomato and Ricotta Pasta

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh (or canned) seeded, diced, plum tomatoes or roasted red peppers
4 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

Directions

Brown the entire sausage on the grill or in a skillet. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When cool enough to touch, slice the sausages into ¼ inch slices.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes to soften the onion. Add the wine and cook over medium high for a few minutes.

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Lower the heat and add the sausage, tomatoes, basil, the red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water, stirring frequently until al dente, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well.

Return the pasta to the pot, add the sausage/tomato sauce, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute so the sauce and pasta combine.

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Add some of the reserved pasta water to moisten.

Combine the ricotta with the parsley, ¼ cup of the Pecorino cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino cheese.

Italian Sourdough Bread

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Some Italian dinners need bread to finish off the meal. This bread is one of the family’s favorite.

Ingredients

3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 cup sourdough starter
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes. Then, knead again for 5 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes.

Place the dough on a floured board and divide in half (about one pound each).

Shape each piece into an 18-inch long loaf and place the loaves, at least 4 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a lightly greased baguette pan.

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Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they’re puffy and twice the size. Cut slits across top.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray the loaves with water and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.

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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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I often plan my meals by what looks good in the market each week. This week fresh spinach and plum (Roma) tomatoes were a good buy. I had fish in the freezer and thought the spinach would make a good stuffing to give the flounder some interest. A simple side of pasta, lightly sauced made a good addition to this meal – all the while keeping this dinner healthy.

Spinach Stuffed Flounder

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Ingredients

1 lb flounder fillets
1 pkg (10 oz) fresh spinach or a 10 oz package frozen, thawed and drained
1/4 cup Feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

Directions

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and scallions and saute for a minute or two.

Add spinach to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the feta and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each piece of fish.

Roll fish around stuffing. Place fish seam side down into an oiled baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil Sprinkle fish with oregano and paprika.

Bake at 400 degrees F uncovered for 30 minutes.

Spaghetti with Lemon Sauce

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Ingredients

1 pound/457 g spaghetti or fettuccine
1 clove garlic, grated
2 lemons (zest of 1 lemon, juice of 2 lemons)
5 tablespoons/74 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 cup/235 ml finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Directions

Place the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente.

Place the grated garlic in a warm pasta serving bowl. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil while whisking.

Whisk until the ingredients have emulsified and add the cheese. Drain the spaghetti and add to the serving bowl. Mix the pasta with the lemon sauce to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the pasta dish with fresh parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Baked Plum Tomatoes

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The tomatoes can bake in the oven with the flounder.

4 servings

Ingredients

4 plum tomatoes, halved horizontally
¼ cup dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place tomatoes cut-side up in an oiled baking dish. Top with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with oil.

After the fish has baked for 15 minutes, place the tomatoes in the oven. Bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.


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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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Free-spirited Wanderer

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Ricardo Sexton

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