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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

Here is another example of how I made use of leftovers. Nothing should be wasted. Last week I roasted a chicken and used the chicken carcass to make the broth. If you have leftover chicken and vegetables, they can also become part of the soup. See the link for the roasted chicken.  Good soup needs a well seasoned and rich stock to make a delicious soup base. Store-bought broth may do in a pinch but you will have a much better tasting soup if you make your own broth. If you are following a low carb diet, the egg noddles can easily be substituted with zucchini noodles.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

15 black peppercorns
12 fresh parsley sprigs
10 fresh thyme sprigs
1 chicken carcass leftover from roasted chicken
5 carrots, chopped
5 celery stalks and leaves, chopped
4 bay leaves
3 large onions, chopped
5 quarts cold water

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a 12-quart stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 4 hours, skimming and discarding foam as needed. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a large bowl; discard solids. Cool stock to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. Skim fat from surface; discard fat.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

8 cups homemade Chicken Stock
2 cups diced leftover cooked chicken or 1 lb chicken tenders
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onion
4 ounces uncooked medium egg noodles
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme for garnish

Directions

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat bring the broth to a boil. If you don’t have any leftover cooked chicken then add the chicken tenders to the broth. Reduce heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes. Remove the chicken tenders from the pan with a slotted spoon or large spider and set aside.


Add carrot, celery, garlic, and onion to the broth; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add noodles and simmer 6 minutes.
Dice the cooled chicken tenders into small pieces. Add the diced tenders or leftover chicken, salt, and black pepper to the broth; cook for 2 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Serve in individual soup bowls garnished with fresh herbs.

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Mardi Gras Inspired Dinner

Cajun or “les Acadians” was used to describe French colonists who lived in the Acadia region of Canada (present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia). With the British Conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly driven from their home and eventually settled in the swampy regions of Louisiana. Those distinct areas are the levees and bayous (Lafourche and Teche), prairies (Attakapas Indian land), swamplands (Atchafalaya Basin), and coastal marshes (New Orleans area and Houma).

The Acadians were an extremely resourceful people who combined the resources of the flatlands, bayous, and the wild game of South Louisiana with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico to create a truly unique local cuisine. While many Acadiana residents today have Native American, German, French, or Italian roots, their way of life is strongly influenced by the Cajun culture. Along with its food, this rural area of Louisiana is famous for its Cajun French music and language.

Seasoning is one of the most important parts of Cajun cooking, and that comes from much more than a heavy helping of cayenne pepper. Most dishes begin with a medley of vegetables based on the French mirepoix. “The holy trinity of Cajun cuisine” utilizes onion, celery, and bell pepper to provide a flavor base for many dishes. Garlic, paprika, thyme, file (ground sassafras leaves) are also very common ingredients in Cajun kitchens.

The term “Creole” describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. Over the years the term Creole grew to include native-born slaves of African descent as well as free people of color. Typically, the term “French Creole” described someone of European ancestry born in the colony and the term “Louisiana Creole” described someone of mixed racial ancestry.

Like the people, Creole food is a blend of the various cultures of New Orleans including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese, to name a few. The dishes consist of an array of spices from various areas, for example, remoulade sauce. Creole cuisine had more variety because of the easier access Creoles had to exotic ingredients and the wide mix of cultures that contributed to the cuisine. That’s why you find tomatoes in Creole jambalaya and not in Cajun jambalaya or why a lot of times you find a Creole roux made with butter and flour while the  Cajun roux is made with oil and flour.

Cajun Steak

Servings: 4

Ingredients
:
1 lb steak bites (cut into 2-inch cubes) (Sirloin, New York Strip or Ribeye)
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, purchased or use the homemade recipe below
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic finely chopped

Directions

Place the Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoon oil in a shallow bowl or a plastic ziplock bag. Add the steak bites and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate for several hours.


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
Sear the steak bites for 2-3 minutes on each side until the edges are crispy and browned and remove to a serving bowl. Set aside.


Reduce heat to medium. Add butter to the skillet and heat until melted. Sauté the chopped garlic for 30 seconds, while scraping the bottom of the pan.
Take the pan off the heat. Place the steak bites back in and toss through the garlic butter to evenly coat. Pour onto a serving plate.

Cajun Seasoning

Ingredients

2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder

Directions
Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Store covered at room temperature.

Cajun Rice Saute

You may also substitute frozen and defrosted cauliflower rice for the regular rice in this recipe

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 small bell pepper (baby bell), diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1⁄2 cups cooked rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
Chopped parsley

Directions

Cook the rice in chicken broth. Set aside
In a skillet heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and bell pepper until tender.


Add garlic, Cajun seasoning and thyme. Saute for 1 minute. Add the cooked rice and heat until hot stirring frequently until combined with the other ingredients. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with chopped parsley.

Southern Style Greens

Bacon fat is often used in this recipe but I use olive oil instead.

Ingredients

2 pounds greens (collards, mustard, chard), washed and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper

Directions

Use a knife to cut on either side of the large rib running up each green leaf. Remove it and discard it. Stack about 4 to 5 leaves, roll them up and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened.
Add broth, vinegar, sugar and hot sauce to pot. Stir to combine.

Add greens and use tongs to turn and mix them until they reduce in size some. Cover, turn heat to low and cook until tender (30-60 minutes depending on the type of greens used), stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shrimp Is On The Menu

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp In Spanish Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

12 large shrimp (16-20), peeled, deveined and tails removed
6 slices Prosciutto di Parma, cut in half lengthwise
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Pat shrimp dry and toss with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl.
Wrap 1 prosciutto slice around the center of each shrimp.

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and paprika to the skillet and cook until bell pepper is soft about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to high, add shrimp and cook until the edges turn pink about 1 minute. Turn shrimp over, add sherry and simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer the shrimp to a serving platter.

Add garlic, thyme, butter, and lemon juice to the skillet with the peppers and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the shrimp on the serving platter. Serve this dish with sautéed spinach and rice or cauliflower rice.

Mexican Style Dinner From The Grill

Taco Flavored Zucchini

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of your favorite taco seasoning
1 hot pepper (serrano), seeded and minced
1/4 cup prepared salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-inch shells. Brush with oil; set aside. Chop zucchini pulp.


In a skillet, saute pulp, hot pepper, and onion in oil. Add garlic and taco seasoning; cook 1 minute longer. Add salsa; cook and stir for 1 minute.


Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the cheese. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini shells.

Preheat an outdoor grill. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the zucchini is tender. You may also bake the stuffed zucchini in a 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes.

Carne Asada

Epazote has a sharp, herbal flavor, reminiscent of oregano and fennel with minty, pine notes. It is commonly found in Mexican cooking.

Ingredients

1/2 pound skirt steak or flank steak pounded thin
Marinade
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried epazote
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Combine the marinade ingredients in a shallow glass dish. Cut the steak into 4 pieces and pound them to an even thin thickness. Marinate beef in the refrigerator, 2 hours to overnight.


Preheat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. Grill beef over direct heat until firm and pink in the center, 2 minutes per side. Remove steak to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

Coleslaw

Ingredients

1/4 of a large head of savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion

Dressing
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the dressing ingredients in a serving bowl and mix well. Add the cabbage, carrots, and onion. Thoroughly combine and refrigerate covered for several hours.

Chicken Pot Pie

This pie makes use of leftovers. I used chicken in this recipe but this could easily be a beef pot pie using leftover roasted beef or steak, beef gravy, and leftover vegetables.
If you are on a low carb or gluten-free diet, I have included recipes for both regular pastry and a low carb/gluten-free pastry.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken, cubed

(leftover from Oven Roasted Butterflied Chicken)

½ cup frozen peas
2 cups chopped leftover vegetables or a combination of carrots, onions, green beans or peas
1 cup leftover chicken gravy
Pie Crust Dough for a double crust (store-bought or homemade recipes below)
Melted butter

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Mix well and set aside.


Place one rolled out pastry crust in a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Add the chicken filling and cover with a second crust. Crimp the edges and seal the crust all around the pie. Cut 4 slits in the top crust and brush the top with melted butter. (Pie can be refrigerated until ready to bake.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly about 30 minutes.

All-Purpose Flour Pastry

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks (16 oz) COLD unsalted butter diced into 1/4″ pieces
6 tablespoons of ice water

Directions

Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.

Add cold diced butter and pulse the mixture until coarse crumbs form.
Add ice water and pulse just until moist clumps or small balls form and the dough sticks together when pinched. If the dough is too dry, add more water a teaspoon full at a time. Be careful not to add too much water or the dough will be sticky and difficult to roll out.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and gather dough together into a ball. Divide dough in half and flatten to form 2 disks.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour before using in the recipes.


Place each disk between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper and roll each into 13 inch round circles.

Low Carb-Gluten Free Pastry

Ingredients

4 cups almond flour blanched
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 tablespoons butter melted
2 egg whites (I use the refrigerated carton of egg whites, such as Egg Beaters)
4 tablespoons water

Directions

Combine egg whites and water.
In a food processor, combine almond flour, salt, and butter. Pulse for 5-6 pulses. Drizzle in egg white and water mixture. Pulse all ingredients together until a dough forms. If the dough seems dry add another tablespoon water.
With hands, form dough into two balls and then flatten each on a piece of wax or parchment paper.

Cover the top of each dough disc with wax paper or plastic wrap and then roll out into a pie crust circle to fit a 9 to 10-inch pie plate. Follow directions about for completing the pot pie.

Weekend Oven Roasted Butterflied Chicken

4 lb Whole Chicken
Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, zested plus the juice of half the lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, 3 carrots, and 3 celery stalks, each cut into 3 or 4 pieces
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Optional – Kitchen Bouquet (gravy browning sauce)

Directions

Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse the cavity. Pat dry. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut away the backbone by cutting along both sides of the bone.


Open the chicken and flatten by pressing down on the breast. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and place in a large ziplock bag. Refrigerate overnight.

Set the cooking rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 450°F.

Coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with olive oil or cooking spray.
Cut the vegetables into pieces and place them in the prepared roasting pan. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, thyme, and rosemary

Crack the peppercorns until coarsely ground. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add just enough oil to form a paste. Rub the chicken with the oil paste and place some of the paste under the breast skin.

Place the chicken in the prepared roasting pan, breast side up, on top of the vegetables. Pour the chicken broth into the pan but don’t pour it over the chicken.

After 30 minutes cover the breast area if necessary with foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 175° to 180°F. Place the chicken on a serving platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes then carve.

Drain the vegetables from the liquid in the pan and place on the platter with the chicken.

Pour the drippings into a small saucepan and add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and gravy browning additive, if using. Bring to a boil and stir until the liquid thickens. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with the chicken and vegetables and mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower.

Italian American Classic-Vegetarian Eggplant Dinner

Eggplant Rollatini

This is my favorite way to prepare eggplant. The dish is light yet full of flavor.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 thin slices
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
11/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
11/2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
4 oz sliced mozzarella

Directions

Peel the eggplant and cut it in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 4 lengthwise slices.

Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle each lightly with salt and pepper. Place them on a large baking sheet.

Roast in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes, turning the eggplant slices over halfway through cooking.

Place on paper towels to cool.

For the filling:

Combine the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper; mix well.

When the eggplant has cooled about 10 minutes, place 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture on each slice.

Spread it over the eggplant slice and then roll up into a cylinder. Repeat with all the eggplant slices.

Oil an 8-inch baking dish and coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce. Place the eggplant rolls in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the eggplant rolls. Top each roll with a piece of mozzarella cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in a 400-degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Let the dish rest a few minutes before serving.

Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bunch broccoli rabe
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 lb ziti pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Trim off about 1-inch of the stems from the bottom and discard. Cut off the broccoli rabe florets and coarsely chop the leaves and remaining stems. Keep the stems and florets separate.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.

Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté 1 minute.

Stir in the broccoli rabe stems, coating them with the oil. Cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining broccoli rabe florets and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and season with pepper.

When the pasta is ready, drain and place the pasta in a serving bowl. Top with the broccoli rabe and add the cheese. Mix well and serve.

Italian Garden Salad

Ingredients

Half a head of Romaine lettuce washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup Italian Olives

Italian Salad Dressing

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons seasoning mix

Directions

For the salad dressing:

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mix in a small jar.

In a mixing bowl whisk the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Combine the salad ingredients together in a salad bowl Add some of the dressing and mix well.

Taste the salad to see if it needs more dressing or salt and pepper. Reserve any leftover seasoning mix and dressing for another salad.


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