Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

vegan-diet

My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.

Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.

Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.

If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.

Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.

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Pureed Celery Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).

Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.

tuscany9

Crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.

Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.

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Eggplant Olive Pasta

Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.

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Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.

Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.

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Vanilla Almond Biscotti

After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.

They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.

Makes about 15 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.

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Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the center is firm (about 30 minutes); remove from the oven and place the log on a cutting board to cool for about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.

Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.


september

Apples

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Apple Pecan Pancakes

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Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter or oil and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and then add in the cider. Stir until just incorporated and a few lumps remain.

Jovina Cooks Italian

Stir in the apples and pecans. Let the mixture rest while the griddle heats.Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil.

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Pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn carefully and cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.

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Brush the pan with oil as needed.

Note: If you want to keep the first batches of pancakes warm while you cook the others, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter while working with subsequent batches.

Cauliflower

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Pasta with Oven Roasted Cauliflower Sauce

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • One head of cauliflower, cored and cut into tiny florets
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz thin slices prosciutto di parma (about 8-9 slices) chopped
  • 1 lb dried cavatappi pasta
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

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Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.

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Pour the  olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and mix well.Add the cauliflower florets, grape tomato halves and the chopped prosciutto.

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Mix well with a large spatula and spread out in a single layer. Roast, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Add the chopped sage and continue to roast for 10 minutes more.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Boil the pasta until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture and enough pasta water to moisten. Heat the mixture and then add the cheese.

Pour onto a pasta serving platter and garnish with additional sage leaves for serving.

Cabbage

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Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon with Braised Cabbage

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Add some baked sweet potatoes to the complete this dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup apple jelly
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine apple jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk.

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Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add salmon skin side up, and cook 3 minutes.

Turn salmon over; brush with half of the apple mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Brush with remaining apple mixture and serve.

Braised Cabbage

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ head green cabbage, cut into ½ inch thick slices
  • 2 leeks
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish with grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a skillet, over medium, heat the butter and when melted, add the leeks and cabbage.

Stir and let the leeks and cabbage wilt and soften. Add the salt and lemon juice; then stir in the cream. Reduce heat to low and let the cabbage braise for about five minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish. Grate some cheese over the cabbage before serving.

Tomatoes

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Homemade Pizza with Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 8 large vine ripe tomato slices, 1/4-inch thick, each cut in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil

Directions

Place the tomato slices on paper towels for about 30 minutes to reduce their moisture.

Adjust the oven rack to the bottom position; preheat to 450°F.

Coat a pizza pan with olive oil and press the dough with your fingers to the edges of the pan

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Brush the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place the tomato slices evenly on top of the ricotta and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.

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Bake the pizza on the lower shelf of the oven until the tomatoes have softened and the cheese begins to brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with oil and return the pizza to the oven for 5 minutes more. Let set 5 minutes before slicing.

French Beans

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Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds

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French beans are smaller and younger than common green beans and have a softer pod.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2/3 cup blanched almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.

Heat the oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add shallots to the green beans in the serving bowl, along with the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the toasted almonds and toss gently.

Garnish with lemon quarters and serve.


run-on-six

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

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

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

Make a double batch – they go fast.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

Spread the seeds on a baking pan.

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

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

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

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

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

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

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Ingredients

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

Directions

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid separately.

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

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

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

Serve with homemade pita chips and cut up vegetables.

Homemade Pita Chips

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Small Wraps

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

Ingredients

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

Protein Filling Ingredients

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

Vegetable Filling Ingredients

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

Spreads

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

Directions

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

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

Pepper and Corn Salsa

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Homemade Tortilla Chips

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

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

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

 

 


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Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

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Summer by Alexander Andreev

Summer by Alexander Andreev

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

Appetizer Course: Crostini with Mushrooms

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Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with grilled bread.

Salad Course: Grilled Shrimp Tomato Salad

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

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Dish: Italian Sausage and Peppers

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This dish is always a big hit with everyone.

Serves 6

For the sausage:

  • 1 ½ lb. Italian sausage

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the peppers and onions:

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

To finish the dish:

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

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

Add the tomato sauce and heat.

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

Side Dish: Corn Pudding

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Dessert Course: Peach Cobbler

IMG_0007

Filling

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

Cobbler

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

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

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

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Make the topping:

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

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

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

 


august

The ingredients listed above are all at their best, so make the most of August’s seasonal foods by turning them into delicious summer recipes. Pair some of summer’s ripe tomatoes with some delicious crab. Create a salad with ripe peaches and Parma Ham. Cook up some pasta and add chopped August veggies and chill. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. Below are some ideas to inspire you to create some recipes from August’s bounty.

New York Deli Style Pickled Green Tomatoes

IMG_0004 (2)

Ingredients

For each quart jar:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled water or purified tap water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 pound firm full-sized green tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 Serrano chili, stem removed or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Notes on the ingredients:

The tomatoes must be all green and cut into quarters.

You can usually find distilled water in the grocery or drug store. Distilled water is best because it has impurities removed and impurities can impart off flavors. Purified tap water is perfectly fine to use also.

Use Kosher salt not table salt. Kosher salt has larger flake shaped grains and also has small amounts of anti-caking additives but no iodine.

The recipe needs a little heat. Half a serrano works perfectly. If fresh peppers are not available, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

You must use distilled vinegar. Any other vinegar imparts too many odd flavors.

Directions

Use really clean bottles and lids. Sterilize them by submerging them in a boiling water bath or on a setting for sanitizing in your dishwasher.

Add the garlic, dill seeds, celery, hot pepper or red pepper flakes and peppercorns to the jar.

Thoroughly wash the tomatoes, remove the stem and cut them into quarters. Cram them in the jar leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.

IMG_0004

Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil and stir until all the salt is dissolved.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Turn the jars over and let sit for a couple of hours.

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Return the jars to the upright position and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Refrigerate the pickled tomatoes for two weeks before serving.

The pickled tomatoes will keep for months in the refrigerator.

Easy Chilled Summer Melon Soup

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This soup makes a great summer appetizer or serve it for lunch.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Crenshaw or cantaloupe melon, skin and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, skin and seeds removed
  • One 15 ounce can coconut milk
  • Grated zest of one large lime
  • 1 large scallion (green onion) light green section finely diced and the top chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Basil or mint leaves for garnish

Directions

IMG_0001

Dice the melon and set aside 4 cups of each kind of melon. Puree the melon in a food processor. You will probably need to do this in batches. Pour the processed melon into a storage bowl.

To the last batch of puree add the lime zest, jalapeno, ginger,1 teaspoon of basil, the 1 teaspoon mint, diced light green scallion and the salt to the melon puree in the processor.

Pulse a few times and pour in the storage bowl with the first batch of pureed melon. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well.

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Chill the soup overnight. Garnish with scallion tops, fresh mint leaves or basil when serving.

Breaded Eggplant Salad

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For 2

For the eggplant

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup dried Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

For the salad

  • Half a large yellow or red tomato, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup diced pickled peppers (spicy peppers are great here if you like them)
  • 4 cups salad greens, chopped

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the eggplant into 1 x 2 inch pieces.

Combine the beaten egg and milk in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Place the coated eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake the eggplant until crispy and brown, turning them over when one side is golden, about 20 minutes.

IMG_0014

Place the chopped pickled peppers on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

While the eggplant bakes, arrange the salad ingredients on individual salad serving plates. Top with the cooked eggplant and drizzle with some of the dressing.

Mix well; serve immediately with additional dressing on the side.

Broiled Tomatoes

IMG_0007

Need a quick side dish, full of flavor and certainly seasonal, try these quick broiled tomatoes.

For each 2 person serving

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato
  • 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the broiler to high.

Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.

Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.

Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.

IMG_0005 (2)

Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.

 


IMG_0007

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

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

Fresh Tomato SauceIMG_0009

Ingredients

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

Herbs

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

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

Directions

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

Add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

IMG_0008

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0011

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

This sauce is especially good served over gnocchi.

Pepper Pizza

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

IMG_0008 (2)

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

IMG_0009 (2)

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

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

Red Wine Tomato JamIMG_0004 (1)

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

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

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

Directions

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

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

IMG_0002

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

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

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

IMG_0003

 



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