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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes


While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who sautéed the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, The term itself most likely originated from Tuscany; where the local peasants would make wine, but had to give most to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds, and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water brought it to a boil, then sealed the mixture in a terracotta vase and let it ferment for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza, the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil.
Acqua pazza became a very popular dish with tourists on Capri Island in the 1960s.
The pezzogna fish (also known as “occhione” or “big eye” because of the size of its eyes) is caught in the Bay of Naples and is highly prized for its delicious taste.
Marcella Hazan was introduced to the dish by her friend from Amalfi, Pierino Jovine, and her first reaction was, “Who wants to eat fish in water?” Here is the link to her recipe:

https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/fish-in-crazy-water

And here is my version

Pesce All’Acqua Pazza

Ingredients for 2 people

1 lb fish fillets (red snapper, flounder) cut into serving portions
Salt and pepper
4 mini plum tomatoes (Marzano) or cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Dry the fish fillets on paper towels and season them with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the garlic, onion, and peperoncino in a skillet with a cover that is large enough to fit the fish, until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, white wine, and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the fish. Cook, covered, 10 minutes for thin fillets or 15 minutes for thicker ones. Serve immediately, dressed with the cooking liquid and topped with the parsley.

Here is another example of my cooking philosophy – never waste food. I had extra zucchini squash and leftover cooked cauliflower, so I decided to use them for side dishes with this fish recipe.

Cauliflower Cakes

Makes 6

Ingredients

2 cups mashed cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Butter

Directions

Combine the mashed cauliflower, cheeses, and seasoning.
Heat a stovetop griddle to medium/high heat. Coat with butter.
Form the cauliflower mixture into 6 patties about 3 inches across. Coat the patties in the panko crumbs.
Cook until golden brown & set, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Zucchini Pancakes

These are so good that I usually double the recipe.

Makes 8-4 inch patties

Ingredients

2 cups grated zucchini
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, grated
2 green onions, finely minced
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch or flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Butter

Directions

Place the grated zucchini on a kitchen towel and sprinkle the zucchini lightly with kosher salt. Let rest 30 minutes.
Squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini with the towel.
In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini with the egg, garlic, green onions, and arrowroot powder. Stir in the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Season with black pepper to taste.
Brush a large stovetop griddle pan or large skillet with butter. Scoop 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture onto the griddle and pat it flat with a metal spatula. Add as many patties as you can to the pan without letting them touch each other.
Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and keep the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven until all the pancakes are made.
Extras can be wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator for a week. Believe me when I say the leftovers are delicious reheated for breakfast and served with a fried egg on top.

 

 

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One of the fastest developing trends in cooking this year has been the use of spiralized veggies. Regardless of the season or the recipe, the spiralizer has given cooks a way to substitute pasta or carb-heavy noodles with fresh squash, beets, and other root vegetables. Green Giant has launched an entire line of frozen spiralized veggies with four different varieties—zucchini, butternut squash, beets, and carrots without any additives—only the vegetable itself. Supermarkets also sell spiralized vegetables in their produce sections.


I find the frozen variety very useful because they are readily available and unlike the fresh veggies, they don’t spoil quickly. I experimented with these frozen veggies and learned not to follow the package directions for microwaving or boiling. Instead, I defrost the veggies, dry them on a kitchen towel and saute them or add them to a sauce. They turn out great – not at all soggy and they retain a fresh taste. Try the recipe below and you will be surprised.

Butternut Squash Pasta

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube or ¼ teaspoon vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Two 12 oz packages frozen butternut squash spirals
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, chopped and parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Defrost the frozen butternut squash in a colander early in the day you plan to cook. Transfer the squash to a kitchen towel to dry.

In a saucepan, saute the onion, mushrooms, fresh oregano and garlic in the olive oil. Add tomatoes, bouillon, and stir. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the cream and butternut squash spirals and simmer for a few minutes until the squash and cream are hot.
Top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese and serve with the grilled sausage.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs. Italian Rope Sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Brush the sausage with olive oil.

Heat the outdoor grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 15 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry. Cook for 15 minutes more.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degrees F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through. If not, continue to cook until the temperature is reached.

Note: to cook on a stovetop grill, heat the pan, lower the heat to low and oil the pan. Cook the sausage for about the same time as above or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.


Leftovers in my house always get reinvented into new dishes. In these recipes, they also change from breakfast meals to dinner meals.

Corned Beef Hash

Serve with Roasted Asparagus, recipe below.

3-4 Servings

Ingredients

2 cups leftover corned beef, cubed (recipe on how to make the corned beef)
1 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cooked Yukon gold potatoes (or rutabaga for a lower carb option)
3-4 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Heat the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook a few minutes, until soft.

Mix in the chopped corned beef and potatoes. Spread out evenly over the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and press down on the mixture with a metal spatula.

Cook until browned, then turn the mixture over. Do not stir the potatoes and corned beef but let them brown. If you hear them sizzling, this is good. (Use a metal spatula to peek underneath and see if they are browning. If nicely browned, use the spatula to turn sections over in the pan so that they brown on the other side. Press down again with the spatula.)

If there is too much sticking, you can add a little more butter to the pan. Continue to cook in this manner until the potatoes and the corned beef are crispy and brown.

Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Fry the eggs in a separate skillet and top each portion of hash with an egg.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Place the asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat the spears, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet covered with foil in a single layer.

Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

Spinach Cheddar Omelet

2 servings

Ingredients

(spinach recipe)

Ingredients

2 cups leftover cooked spinach
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
Additional black pepper, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the mushrooms and onions; cook until and soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the leftover spinach and heat until hot.

Beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl and pour over the vegetable mixture. Stir the eggs around the pan with a rubber spatula, pulling the sides in towards the middle, swirling the pan slightly so the runny egg mixture on top hits the pan and cooks. Cook about 2 minutes, until the eggs are just slightly shiny on top. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top.

Carefully lift up the edge of the omelet and check to see if the eggs are lightly golden on the bottom. Once they are, gently fold it over the filling and let cook another minute over low heat.

Slide omelet out of skillet and divide in half. Serve garnished with minced parsley and extra black pepper.

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Cut a thin slice off the top and the bottom of each tomato. Cut them in half, horizontally.


Place tomatoes on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with oil. Bake until the tomatoes until warm, about 10 minutes. Serve alongside the spinach omelet.

 


The idea for this tomato-based seafood stew comes from the fisherman from Genoa who immigrated to the US and settled in the Bay area of California. Cioppino was developed in San Francisco by these Italian immigrants who prepared a fish stew with what they had on their fishing boats from their daily catch.

Legend has it that requests were made as the boats came in for the day asking for any seafood to “CHIP IN ” to the pot; add Italian seasoning and hence the name: Cioppino (chip-EEN-o). Most food historians and cookbook authors don’t even try to fix the recipe in time, although all point to San Francisco as the place of origin. Cioppino wasn’t well-known beyond the Bay area (or at least outside of California) until after World War II. John Thorne…describes in the September/October 1996 issue of his newsletter, Simple Cooking, how he came upon a vintage (1921) cookbook that discusses cioppino in detail. That book, Fish Cookery, by Evelyn Spencer of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and John N. Cobb, director of the College of Fisheries at the University of Washington, offers a recipe for cioppino that had appeared three years earlier by H.B. Nidever in California Fish and Game. Thorne believes that it may be one of the first, if not the first, ever published.

In 1925 Nunzio Alioto, an Italian immigrant, set up a stall at #8 Fisherman’s Wharf to sell lunchtime provisions to the Italian laborers. His business grew and by 1932 he had constructed the first building at the corner of Taylor and Jefferson, by combining the fish stand with a seafood bar. After Nunzio passed away unexpectedly, his widow Nonna Rose and her three children took over the stall. In 1938 she installed a kitchen in the original structure and officially opened Alioto’s Restaurant. Their specialty was Cioppino.

Here is my version that I have developed over the years and one that suits my family’s taste.

Italian American Seafood Stew (Cioppino)

Serve with a green salad and some crusty Italian bread for dipping in the delicious sauce.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups fish stock
2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 pounds firm, skinless fish fillets (such as red snapper, grouper, swordfish, tuna, mahi-mahi or halibut), cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb shrimp, deveined
1 lb sea scallops
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup white wine
2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked to remove the sand

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, fish stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes.

Add the wine to a large deep skillet and bring to a boil. Add the clams, turn the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Remove the clams as they open to a covered bowl. Discard any clams that do not open. Strain the juices in the skillet through a fine mesh colander. Set aside the clams and the strained cooking liquid.

Next add the fish pieces and shrimp to the tomato sauce, pushing them down into the liquid a little. Cover the pot and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the scallops and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the opened clams and strained wine and heat for a minute or two.

Immediately scoop the stew into large bowls, garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with Italian bread.


Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks

2 servings

Ingredients

Sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 minced green onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon drained capers
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Steaks
Two 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rub both sides of the steaks with oil and garlic. Mix paprika, coarse salt, and black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of the steaks. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small glass dish. Set aside

Prepare an outdoor or stovetop grill (medium-high heat). Brush the grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to serving plates.

When the steaks are cooked and resting, heat the sauce in the microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

Green Bean Casserole

Servings 6

Ingredients

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock/broth or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Shallot topping, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8×8 ovenproof casserole dish.

Cook green beans to your liking. Boil in salted water or steam them on for 3-4 minutes..drain and place in a mixing bowl.

Sauce: In a saucepan heat the butter and add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until soft. Turn the heat down to medium and add the wine. Saute for about a minute or until the alcohol has burned off. Add the softened cream cheese and break it up in the pan so that it melts more easily. Add the chicken broth little by little and whisk to combine until the cream cheese has melted.

Turn the heat to medium-low and let the sauce bubble a little to combine flavors and thicken slightly. Add the cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk and taste to adjust seasoning.

Pour the sauce into the bowl with the green beans and stir together. Pour the green bean mixture into the buttered baking dish. Put the green bean casserole in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly around the sides. Sprinkle with the fried shallots and serve.

Fried Shallots

Ingredients

Vegetable oil
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/8-inch thick
Salt

Directions

Pour about one inch of oil into a deep skillet. Add shallots and place the pot over medium
heat. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes (turn down heat if they seem to be coloring too quickly), until they gradually become brown.
Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl. Transfer shallots to the sieve and let drain well. (Save the oil for another purpose.) Blot shallots on paper towels. They will become crisp as they cool. Sprinkle lightly with salt.’

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

6 servings.

Ingredients

6 medium tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-in. thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.(Save the use the pulp for tomato sauce.)
Combine the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning garlic powder and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for the topping. Add spinach and mozzarella cheese to the remaining crumb mixture. Sprinkle the tomato shells lightly with salt; stuff with the spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Toss the reserved crumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.


Italian Style Crab Cakes

I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset Blend which is a combination of basil, oregano, red bell pepper, garlic, thyme, fennel, black pepper, and anise. You can also use dried Italian seasoning.

Ingredients

1 lb fresh lump crabmeat, cleaned and shells removed
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
1 shallot, minced
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Tuscan blend seasoning or salt-free dried Italian seasoning
⅓ cup olive oil mayonnaise
2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought basil pesto
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 thin tomato slices

Lemon Butter Aioli

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove small garlic minced or grated
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

Make the aioli
Whisk the melted butter with the ½ cup mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, pinch of cayenne, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and combined, cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Make the crab cakes
In a large bowl, mix together all crab the cake ingredients except the oil and the tomatoes. Using 1/3 cup mixture for each, shape into eight 3-inch patties.

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat until hot. Add patties; cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Drain on paper towels.

To serve place each crab cake on a tomato slice and top each cake with a tablespoon of Lemon Butter Aioli.


I have family visiting, so this week I will share with you some of our main dish entrees. Complete this meal with meatballs or Italian sausage, salad and bread.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

Makes 8-10. Double the recipe for the crepes and filling to make two dishes.

Crespelle Batter
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Butter for crepe pan

To make the crepes:

Add the flour gradually to the milk with a whisk in a medium bowl with a cover. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the salt.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the crepe pan and butter the pan.
Pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan. Tilt the pan around with a circular motion so that the batter thins out and forms a round crêpe about the size of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crêpe become whitish and the inner portion yellow and partially solid.
Using a wide spatula, turn the crepe over and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
Remove to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan for each crepe. Place a sheet of wax paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together.

Marinara Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (26-ounce) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
4 fresh basil leaves, minced

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a cover. Add the garlic and onion. Sauce for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the sauce with the cover ajar for 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Spinach and Ricotta Filling
2 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for baking
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the manicotti.

To assemble the manicotti:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly brush a 9×13 inch baking dishes with olive oil.
Spread a thin layer of sauce across the bottom of the baking dish.
Place 4 tablespoons of the filling down the center of a crepe. Roll it up and place it, seam-side-down the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. Top with marinara sauce spreading it evenly over the manicotti and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake the manicotti for 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.



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