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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Vegetarian

You may have family or friends visiting for the holidays who follow special diets. If you plan ahead and with just a few ingredients changes, many of the Thanksgiving recipes can be adapted to meet the needs of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low carb diets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Vegan Gravy (or Regular or Gluten-Free)

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce that you can find in the grocery store next to the A1 and Worcestershire Sauce. It helps to add a brown color to the gravy. There are several brands of browning sauce available, but I use this one. Since 2006 this vegan sauce has been gluten-free. It is made from a base of carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, celery and onion.

You can use this same recipe for everyone by make a second batch and using chicken broth in the second batch for regular diets. To make this gravy Gluten-Free, use gluten-free cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Gluten-free gravy also works for low carb dieters.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Directions

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.

Stir in the flour with a whisk and reduce heat to low. Cook for another minute or two.

Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking to reduce clumps. Then add in the salt, pepper and thyme and whisk again.

Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, if using.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until it reaches the desired thickness, about 5-10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

To make this recipe gluten-free use cornbread instead of Italian bread in the recipe. The gluten-free cornbread recipe is below.

Ingredients

8 cups Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the sausage.

Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and peppers, cook 1 minute and, then, add the mixture to the cubed bread.

Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Place the stuffing in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for the last hour that the turkey cooks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

This can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well.

In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, buttermilk and honey, and whisk to combine well.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top, golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut up into cubes.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ingredients

3 cups sourdough wheat bread (made without dairy or eggs) cut into cubes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 leek white part only, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add sage and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are well browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Add leek, celery, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, and chopped pecans.

Add stock to the bread cubes and fold in the cooked vegetables until evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake with the turkey until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

Serve this dish instead of turkey for your vegan or vegetarian dinners.

To make this recipe for non-vegans, add a ½ cup of cooked lean ground pork to the stuffing.

Directions for preparing the squash:

Cut a thin slice off from the top & bottom of one acorn squash (just enough to leave a flat edge, so the squash can stand up on both ends).

Cut the squash in half, horizontally, so you have two bowl shapes. Scoop out the membranes and seeds and discard.

Place the squash in a baking dish cut-side up. Brush the inside with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Roast the squash for about 30 minutes.

Filling

Combine the following:

2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1/4 cup diced, peeled pear
1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup cooked brown rice

 

 

Place the filling mixture in the partially cooked squash halves. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Easy Vegan or Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin filling can be used for either pie.

Ingredients

Pat-in-the-Pan Vegan Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Vegan Pie Filling Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides.

A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pat-in-the-Pan Gluten-Free Crust

1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or alternative oil)
5 tablespoons cold milk (or cold plant milk)

Gluten-Free Pie Crust Directions

Mix together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend oil and milk together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine.

Place dough into a 9 inch pie plate and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake for about 60 minutes.

The crust should be golden brown and the filling should still be set.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set overnight.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Crust

2¼ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar substitute (1:1 with sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1:1 sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until a dough forms.

Press the dough into 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the beaten eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, spices and sweetener. Mix well.

Add the heavy cream until fully combined.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick (or knife) inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

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This is the perfect time of year to go creative with your salad making recipes.  So many fresh ingredients are available in summer that you will not get bored with the variety of salads to you can make. Below are a few I have made and you might like to give them a try.

Shrimp Cobb Salad

Mini corn muffins (see recipe) go well with this salad.

For 2 servings

For the shrimp
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the ranch dressing
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon dried dill

For the salad
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded carrots
8 grape tomatoes, halved
Half a cucumber, peeled and diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, sliced
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (or any other cheese)

Directions

To prepare the shrimp:

Early in the day.

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place them in a skillet with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together.

Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, just until pink. Refrigerate until time to make the salad.

To prepare the dressing:

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste.

Refrigerate until serving time.

To assemble the salad:

Arrange the lettuce in the bottom of two salad plates. In rows across the lettuce arrange the shrimp, carrots, tomatoes, egg and cucumber.

Crumble the blue cheese and bacon over the salad ingredients. Serve with the dressing.

Mini Corn Muffins

Makes 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (coarse or regular)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 scallion, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 24 mini muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper liners.

Sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Combine the buttermilk, egg and oil in a big measuring cup. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full.

Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serve with fresh tomato salsa and homemade tortilla chips, recipes below.

Ingredients

8 ears corn, kernels stripped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Half of a large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 grape tomatoes, halved, optional garnish

Directions

In a serving bowl, place chopped celery, onion and peppers. Add the corn, salt, cumin and chili powder. Mix well. Stir in the mayonnaise.

Arrange the cut tomatoes around the top of the salad to garnish, if desired. Chill the salad until serving time.

Fresh Homemade Salsa

About 3 cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
2 medium chile peppers, such as poblano, New Mexico or Anaheim, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder or chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions

Be very careful while handling chile peppers. You can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands if you use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours.

You can make the salsa in one of two ways: finely chop the ingredients by hand or use a processor. I prefer to finely chop all the ingredients because I like a chunky, more rustic salsa that is easy to scoop on tortilla chips.

For the processor method:

Roughly chop the tomatoes, chilies and onions.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times-just enough to finely dice the ingredients but not enough to purée them.

Place the mixture in a serving bowl. Taste the salsa. If the chilies made the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. Adjust for salt.

Let sit for an hour at room temperature for the flavors to combine. Serve with homemade tortilla chips.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Olive oil

One package (8-10) large (12 inch) flour tortilla

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 evenly with taco seasoning.

Cut the tortillas into 6-8 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

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.

Tabbouleh

Serve with pita chips and hummus.

Ingredients

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup (about 1 pound) chopped very ripe tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kalamata olives and Feta cheese for garnish
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving
Warm Pita bread or Pita chips, for serving

Directions

Rinse the bulgur in a fine-mesh sieve under cool running water until the water runs clear, then transfer the bulgur to a bowl.

In a heatproof bowl, mix the bulgur with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup boiling water.

Cover, and let stand until tender but slightly chewy, about 30 minutes.

Drain the bulgur to remove any liquid not absorbed.

In a large bowl, combine the scallions, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, mint, remaining salt, pepper and cumin.

Add the soaked bulgur to the bowl and gently toss.

Add the olive oil and the lemon juice and lightly toss, adding more seasoning if necessary.

Set the tabbouleh aside for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Cover and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish the salad with kalamata olives and feta cheese. Serve with romaine lettuce leaves and pita bread.

Baked Pita Chips

If you do not have access to Za’atar seasoning, you can make your own. See recipe below.

2 packages of whole wheat pita breads
Olive oil
Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each pita on both sides with olive oil.

Cut each in quarters and place on baking sheets. Sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning,

Bake until crispy and brown about 15 minutes.

Homemade Za’atar Seasoning

Makes 1/4 cup

Combine 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight jar.


Sometimes the craving for a sandwich comes on and you want one that will be rewarding. I never eat sandwiches for lunch, since my lunches tend to be light: yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit or a bowl of soup. So having a sandwich for dinner is a real treat for me. Leftovers can also be the start of some great sandwich recipes, as indicated in the recipes below. What is your favorite dinner sandwich?

Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

A mixed green salad is perfect to complete this meal.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 pound grilled Italian sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large green bell pepper, roasted, skins removed and sliced into long strips
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, skins removed and sliced into long strips
1/4 cup marinara sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Ciabatta or Hoagie rolls

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the rolls in foil and heat for about 10 minutes.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid.

Add the sausage and peppers and sprinkle with a little salt and the Italian seasoning. Stir in the marinara sauce and cover the pan.

Heat the mixture until hot.

Fill the rolls with the sausage mixture and serve.

Italian Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Serve this sandwich with sweet potato fries and pickles.

2 servings

Ingredients

4 slices country-style bread
Olive oil for brushing
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
Dried Italian seasoning
4 slices mozzarella cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves

Directions

Place the sliced chicken in a zip-lock bag and pour the salad dressing in. Close the bag and shake it so the dressing is evenly distributed.

Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat an electric Panini press on high or the “panini” setting according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you do not have a Panini Press: You can cook the sandwiches in a skillet on top of the stove. You will need a second skillet to weigh the sandwiches down. Heat one skillet over medium heat.

Brush the bread slices on one side with olive oil. Place 2 slices of mozzarella on each side of the bread slices not brushed with oil.

Arrange the chicken and then the roasted bell peppers on top of the cheese.

Place 4 basil leaves on each sandwich and then 2 more slices of mozzarella.

Top each sandwich with one of the remaining bread slices, oiled side up.

Place the sandwiches on the preheated Panini press, close the lid and cook until the cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes.

Or place the sandwiches in the heated skillet and place the unheated skillet on top, pressing it down.

Cook the sandwiched until brown on the bottom.

Turn them over, replace the skillet press and cook until the second side is brown, about 6 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

2 servings

Ingredients

2 ciabatta rolls
Two 4×4 inch pieces of Eggplant Parmesan:

Recipe link: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/05/18/what-to-cook-this-week/

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Split the rolls in half. Place a square of Eggplant Parmesan on the bottom half of each roll. Place the top of the roll on top of the eggplant.

Wrap the sandwiches in the aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet.

Bake the sandwiches for about 15- 20 minutes, until hot.

Serve with pickled Tuscan peppers.

Vegan Summer Garden Sandwich

1 serving

Ingredients

Vegan Creamy Italian Salad Dressing, recipe below
2 slices of your favorite bread or 1 Italian roll
4 small slices of oven baked or grilled eggplant
4 thin slices of fresh, uncooked zucchini
1 slice red onion
2 large slices vine ripe tomatoes
Garden leaf lettuce

Directions

Brush one side of each piece of bread with the creamy dressing and layer the ingredients on the side of one piece of bread brushed with dressing.

First, place the eggplant on the bread and then add the zucchini slices, tomato slices and onion.

Top with lettuce leaves and the remaining bread slice, dressing side down. Cut in half and enjoy this sandwich with your favorite coleslaw.

Vegan Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

Adapted from Vintage Kitty

Makes 16 tablespoons

Ingredients

1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons almonds
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch chili flakes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon organic sugar or agave syrup
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the warm water, almonds, Italian seasoning, dried basil and chili flakes in a mixing bowl and let soak for 15 minutes.

Place the mixture in a blender and add the garlic, shallot, olive oil, vinegar and sugar.

Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Add fresh parsley and pulse. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Store in the refrigerator up to one week


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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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The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to pasta. Adding vegetables to pasta stretches the pasta and adds more nutrients to your diet. Though cauliflower has a bland taste on its own, it is a highly regarded vegetable. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with pasta because it absorbs flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing the recipes.

According to research studies, water boiling and blanching have the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods cause significant losses of  protein, mineral and phytochemical nutrients after five minutes of boiling. Instead, cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.

Since cauliflower is in season now, I try to think of a variety ways to cook this great vegetable and combining it with pasta is a family favorite. This recipe can be used with any vegetable that is in season.

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Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half a large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 sage leaves, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup of pureed sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 lb short pasta, preferably with ridges (I used trofiette – short, twisted spaghetti shape)

Directions

In a large skillet cook the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is tender. Add the sage and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cauliflower softens a bit. Don’t overcook cauliflower or it loses its taste and nutrients.

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Add the tomato paste and wine and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomato puree and crushed red pepper. Heat gently.

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Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the reserved pasta water. Stir well. Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and add the parsley and cheese. Stir well and serve.

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Cucumber Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into thin half moons
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup oil cured Italian olives

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a medium salad bowl whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the dish and refrigerate until well chilled.


 

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Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

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Serve this salad with grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti

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This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

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

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin

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Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

IMG_0004 (2)

Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

IMG_0003

Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 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

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.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 



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