Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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There are around 5,000 different species of crab, which can be found all over the world. 4,500 of these species are said to be “true” crabs, while the other 500 are made up of different species of hermit crabs.The majority of crabs live in the water, however, there are a small number of crabs that live on land and breathe air.

The majority of the crab population can be found in the waters around China, followed by the U.S. and Japan.  While most crabs are found in the Asian seas, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of crabs. Crab dishes are very popular in Japan, France, Spain, Hong Kong, the U.S., Canada and Portugal.

Crabs and crustaceans were considered a delicacy in ancient Rome. In particular, Apicius, a well known “foodie” of the time, described how to cook crustaceans in his book, De Re Coquinaria, and it seems that he was a real fan. Legend has it that when he learned that there were extremely large lobsters living along the coast of Libya, he hired a boat and sailed there just to try them. Once he arrived and discovered that the local lobsters were almost identical to those found in Rome, he turned around and came back to Italy without even debarking.

Although there are many different types of crab and each offer their own distinctive taste and texture, all crabmeat is essentially sweet. The many crab species fished from North America’s coastal waters vary greatly in size, appearance, taste and texture and lend themselves to an immense array of dishes. There are six varieties that are used the most and are commercially available, either live, cooked, frozen or in lump form (that is, picked from the shell and packaged).

If you are planning on cooking the crab at home and eating it straight from the shell, it is best to buy live crabs for better taste. Frozen crabs can also be bought. Buy your crabs from a well-known and reputable fish market or, as a second choice, from a large supermarket. If you are buying from the latter, make sure to find out how long the crabs have been in the tank. If it is longer than a week, they should really be avoided.

When I was young, my family and I would spend our summers at the shore. One of the activities involved crabbing in the bay near our house. My father would take me to the dock very early in the morning. It was a simple affair: string, bait and a basket. My father would attach the bait to the string, drop the bait end into the water and tie the other end to the dock. My job was to check the strings every once in awhile to see if we caught a crab. If we did, we would pull up the string and place the crab in a covered basket. Believe or not, we caught many crabs this way, more than enough for dinner. My father would be very happy and always bragged about the crab catch. He loved to make spaghetti sauce with crabs cooked in the sauce. I was not a fan and didn’t eat crab then. Times have changed.

If you are buying live crabs, it is best to consume them when they are as fresh as possible, preferably on the same day, although they will keep overnight in the refrigerator. Put the live crabs in a bowl or a container where they can still breathe and cover them with damp paper towels or a damp cloth. Place them in a cold area of your refrigerator until you are ready to use them. 

Boiling live crab

Pour 5 quarts of water into a large pot and add 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a rapid boil.

Grasp the live crab by the back legs and drop it into the water headfirst. Bring the water back to the boil and only then start timing.

You should cook large crabs (about 2 lb.) for around 15-20 minutes and smaller crabs around 8 – 10 minutes.

The crab’s shell should turn a bright orange when done.

When the crabs are done, immerse them for a few seconds in cold water, so that cooking stops and they do not overcook.

Defrosting a whole crab

If you have decided to purchase pre-cooked frozen crab, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight in order to defrost.

If you need to defrost the crab quickly, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a sink full of cold water. Do not use hot water. A two pound crab will defrost in one hour.

Storing cooked crab meat

Freshly cooked crab meat is best eaten on the same day, however, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. The cooked meat should be removed from the shell beforehand.

Cooked crab meat can be frozen and will keep for four months. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped or placed in an airtight container before freezing.

Some of the more common types of crab are described below.

Alaskan King Crab are the largest and most sought after crab in the world due to its size, which can reach up to 25 pounds and measure up to 10 feet. It may be large, but only about one-fourth is edible, primarily the legs and claws. Only males are harvested. The delicately-flavored meat is snowy white with a bright red outer edge. Their preferred habitat is in the coldest waters in the world. King Crab is caught chiefly by commercial fisherman in various areas in the Pacific Ocean near Alaska: Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, St. Matthew Island, Pribilof Island and the Kodiak Islands.

Alaskan Snow Crab are the type of crab you mainly find in a seafood restaurant. There are four species of Snow Crab and two species are found in Alaskan waters. Alaskan Snow Crab are mainly caught by commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea waters and the Chukchi Sea. Many of the same crabs are also found in Japan. Their habitat is in very cold waters. Snow Crab grow by molting when they shed their exterior. Then they grow tissue to fill each new, larger exo-skeleton. They molt several times per year when they are young but only once per year when they get larger and mature. The average snow crab weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

The Blue Crab habitat is mainly around the Chesapeake Bay area on the Atlantic coast, areas in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas as far south as the Bahamas. This species of crab has blue highlights and their shells are extremely sharp. Blue crabs can also be eaten in it’s soft shell stage. To eat these crab in the soft shell stage, they have to caught, processed and cooked before they molt to their hard shell state. 

Dungeness Crab is a type of crab that inhabits grass beds and water bottoms all the way from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down through the Pacific Ocean waters of California and even into parts of the Gulf of Mexico. They are named after Dungeness, Washington, which is located near Port Angeles, WA, in the Puget Sound area. This area is where Captain George Vancouver explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along the northern area of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula in the late eighteenth century. Dungeness Crab is considered a characteristic food of the Great Pacific Northwest.

Stone Crabs have large, very hard claws that are prized for their meat. Most of the harvest comes from Florida, where it is harvested from October 15 to May 15. Only the claws are eaten, so fishermen twist off one claw from each stone crab and toss them back to grow a new one. Crabs will regenerate new claws within 18 months. The law requires the claws of just caught stone crabs be boiled for 7 minutes and then either put on ice or frozen. The freezing process seems to remove an unpleasant iodine taste which is often noticed in the meat. To serve, the claws are cracked with a mallet and served cold with dipping sauces. Minimum size for claws is 2 to 2.75 ounces. The meat has a firm texture and a sweet flavor.

Red Rock Crabs and their cousins, the Jonah Crab, are light to dark brownish red, depending on where they are caught. The further north they are fished, the darker the shells get. Red Rock crabs are found along the Atlantic coast all the way from Nova Scotia to the shores of Florida. Neither are sold in upscale fish stores or in the major supermarkets, but you may be able to find them in Spanish or Chinese markets.

Freshwater Crabs: There are many species that live in freshwater- especially in the streams and billabongs of Australia- but also on every other continent.The Southern European Crab, pictured above, has been eaten by people since Roman Times. Unfortunately, freshwater crabs are threatened by human activities more than most groups of animals and many species are in danger of becoming extinct.

The four basic types of shelled meat that you can buy and their uses follow:

Jumbo Lump or Lump Crab Meat

Jumbo Lump meat comes from the pair of large muscles that drive the crab’s swimming legs. With care and skill these lumps can be removed intact, resulting in the prized whole Jumbo Lump with its incomparable visual appeal. Grades identified simply as lump are from smaller crab varieties.

Use Jumbo Lump when you want to display beautiful white meat in:

Crab cocktails

Solid-meat crab cakes

Crab Louis – lumps of crab meat and hard boiled eggs on Boston lettuce, with Russian dressing.

Crab Imperial – a baked dish combining crab with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce, spooned into scallop shells, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese or bread crumbs and browned.

Lump or Backfin Lump Crab Meat

Lump or Backfin is the preferred grade for many traditional crab dishes. It has the same fine flavor and texture of Jumbo Lump, but is in slightly smaller pieces. Some companies call this grade Lump, some Backfin and some Backfin Lump. If you purchase a can labeled Lump, it will be all lump meat and will not contain any Jumbo Lump.

Use Lump or Backfin when you want beautiful white crab but don’t want the expense of Jumbo Lump, for example:

Crab Benedict (Eggs Benedict with crab instead of ham)

Gazpacho: add a 1/2 cup of crab to the center of the soup

Pasta:  add to Spaghetti Carbonara instead of bacon or add a cup to Fettuccini all’Amatriciana

Risotto

White Crab Meat

 

White crab meat is ideal for crab cake recipes that have multiple ingredients (bread crumbs, vegetables) that are mixed with mayonnaise and in crab recipes where the size and shape of the crab flake becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the ingredients.

White crab meat is a more economical alternative for:

Appetizers

Bisques and chowders

Omelets

Pizza

Sandwiches and salads

Stuffed tomatoes

Claw Crab Meat

Claw Crab meat is the “dark meat” of the crab. The reddish-brown claw and leg meat is actually more flavorful than the white meat and is preferred by many who like the more robust flavor and appreciate the lower price. Claw meat also stands up to bolder seasonings. Some people mix it with Backfin Lump for visual appeal, while keeping the overall price down.

Try claw meat and, if you like the flavor, you may have an economical alternative and a reason to enjoy crab more often. You can use it in any preparation, but especially in

Cheese melts

Crab tacos

Cioppino or other fish stews

What To Look For In Canned Crab Meat

When you do a comparative test among different brands of canned crab meat, you can immediately discern differences in the size, color, texture, shell content, scent and the flavor of the meat. Each bite of crab meat should taste and smell the same. If it doesn’t, you need to find a better brand.

Cooking With Crab

If you are planning on buying crab legs, try not to buy ones that have been thawed, since they will not retain their taste and freshness. Always try to buy frozen crab legs or pre-cooked and frozen crab legs.

Thawed crab legs can be maintained in the refrigerator for two days before they go bad, but they should really be cooked as soon as they have been defrosted.

To defrost frozen crab legs, place them in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. If you place them on a rack in a watertight container, they can drain as they are defrosting.

Pre-cooked frozen crab legs can be heated in a number of ways, even in the microwave. My preferred way is to bake them in the oven.

To bake crab legs

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.

Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8 – 9 minutes.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

4 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 artichokes
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons crab boil or Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 cup crab meat
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the stems from the artichokes to leave a neat, flat base. Lay each artichoke on its side, and cut away the upper third with a sharp knife. With kitchen shears, remove the prickly leaf tips from each remaining leaf. Rub the cut sides and bottom with a lemon slice, squeezing lemon juice onto the cut areas and set aside.

Place the prepared artichokes, lemon slices, crab boil and bay leaves in the boiling water and simmer, partially covered, until the bottom is tender and can be pierced with a sharp knife and an outer leaf pulls out easily, about 25 minutes.

Drain the artichokes upside down in a colander.

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

To the onions in the pan, add the garlic and oregano and continue to cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs, crab meat, lemon zest, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix well and adjust seasonings with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, press the leaves gently back so that the artichoke opens to reveal the inner choke and prickly leaves. Pull out the cone of undeveloped white leaves and gently scrape out the choke with a spoon. Gently pull the leaves outward from the center until the leaves open slightly.

Fill the artichoke cavities with the crab stuffing and pack a little bit into the space between the leaves.

Place the artichokes in an earthenware baking dish and drizzle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the dish and place in the oven. Bake until the artichokes are golden brown and the bread crumbs develop a crust, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle each with some grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional lemon wedges.

Cioppino-Style Roasted Crab

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 2 – 15-ounce cans chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 – 2-pound cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned, quartered, cracked or 2 pounds Alaska king crab legs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in large deep ovenproof skillet or large metal roasting pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to high and boil 2 minutes. Add clam juice, tomatoes with juice, 1 cup water, bay leaves, parsley and crushed red pepper and bring to boil. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15 minutes. Add crab pieces; nestle into sauce. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until crab pieces are heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Place crab with juices in large bowl to serve.

Spaghettini with Crab and Spicy Lemon Sauce

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped fresh parsley plus whole sprigs for garnish
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, sliced crosswise (optional)

Directions:

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in large skillet over medium heat. Mix in the next 4 ingredients.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta, 1/4 cup cooking liquid, chopped parsley and crab meat to skillet. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats pasta, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large platter.Top with prosciutto, if desired. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley sprigs. 

Roasted Shellfish with Fennel and Citrus

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds stone crab claws or Canadian snow crab legs, shells cracked with mallet or cut with scissors
  • 1 1/2 pounds small clams, scrubbed
  • 16 mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped fresh chives

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a heavy large roasting pan over 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add oregano and fennel and stir 1 minute. Add olive oil, cracked crab, clams and mussels; stir to coat. Place pan in the oven. Roast until crab is heated through and clams and mussels open, stirring occasionally and transferring clams and mussels to a platter as they open, about 10 minutes.

After all the shellfish has been transferred to the platter (discard any clams and mussels that do not open); tent with foil to keep warm. Heat the same roasting pan over 2 burners over high heat. Add shallots and wine and boil 1 minute. Add citrus juices and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Whisk in butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over shellfish. Sprinkle with chives and serve.


savory-italian-pie

There are a great variety of Italian savory cakes, pies and tart recipes for all occasions. You can serve them cold or warm, as a starter or as a one-plate meal accompanied with a green salad.

The main ingredients are fish, meat, vegetables and eggs and they can be made with a pie crust or puff-pastry or pizza dough

A torta (the plural is torte) is a pie, usually a savory one, at least in the countries across the Mediterranean—consisting of a filling (often based on vegetables) enclosed in thin dough and baked in an oven or cooked over an open fire. The notion of savory pies is ancient, perhaps dating to the Mesopotamians. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all ate something similar.

Torte of various designs are made all over Italy today, but the Ligurians seem to produce this dish in its purest form—just dough and filling, without any enhancements. The only complex Ligurian torta made today is torta pasqualina, or “Eastertide torta”, which is filled with either artichokes or Swiss chard and mixed with eggs, cheese, and herbs. Traditionally, torta pasqualina was made with 33 layers of dough—ten on the bottom and 23 on the top—to symbolize the 33 years of Christ’s life.

Sandro Oddo, who is a serious student of local history, folklore, and cuisine, writes that, In the old days people in the mountains ate torte everyday. Pasta was a rarity.” Pasta is filling and comparatively inexpensive, but because little wheat grows in the Ligurian countryside—or anywhere else in the region—flour was expensive, and pasta was usually purchased instead of being made at home. So instead of making pasta, less than a pound of flour could be formed into a thin-dough torta with a filling of wild greens or mushrooms, some eggs from the barnyard and some homemade cheese.  This pie could  feed eight to ten family members. The prevalence of torte in this region wasn’t originally a matter of cultural preference; it was a matter of survival.  

Until 1994 Triora, a city in Liguria, held an annual torta-making contest.  “In the last two years of the contest,” Oddo says, “only two women bothered to enter. It wasn’t much of a competition and the event has been permanently canceled. The art is being lost,” he adds. 

A past contest winner, Allavena, created a torta that was different from that of most of Liguria. Instead of many top and bottom layers, hers was made with a single oversized sheet of dough; the filling was placed in the middle, the edges were drawn up to the center in irregular pleats and the pie was baked. While she often made a traditional chard-filled torta, her specialties were, torta di patate with a filling of puréed potatoes and torta di polenta  with a spinach and herb filling.

She usually baked her torta in a small oven in her little kitchen, but on special occasions Allavena used to carry them down the street to the local communal oven.  “The baker would cook it for you in the leftover heat after he’d finished his loaves,” she said. Unfortunately, the oven closed down recently in response to new Italian safety laws. Another lost art.

In the United States torta often means a combination of layered soft cheeses, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. This is served in a loaf form and spread onto breads or crackers, but this is not the traditional torta as viewed by the Italians. Instead, the Italian torta is a meat and cheese pie or tart, usually double crusted, that slightly resembles a quiche. The primary difference between quiche and torta, besides the double crust, is that the slightly eggy custard in a torta is much more cheese based than egg based. Usually egg is only used to bind ingredients together, instead of making up the majority of the savory filling, as in a quiche.

Some chefs suggest using a pizza dough for the Italian torta, while others suggest a more traditional piecrust. Either type of dough can make a delicious torta, but the pastry crust is more traditional than bread dough. When pastry dough is used, the torta may be made in a large springform pan instead of in a pie dish.

Italian torte can have any combination of ingredients. Some are completely vegetarian, and are flavored merely with vegetables like artichokes or spinach. Other recipes introduce ham or sausage. The principal filling is usually a combination of ricotta cheese, parmesan, parsley and onion. From that point on, you can get creative and use many different ingredients to augment the Italian torta.

You can serve a torta while it is still slightly warm and the cheese semi-melted, or you can serve it cold, especially for parties. The pie’s interior, when cool, is more like a solid cheese custard. Do observe caution when storing the pie, if you plan to serve it cool. It should be kept in the refrigerator, because of its high cheese content, until about ten minutes prior to serving. As mentioned, ingredients can vary significantly. Any and all can make for a delicious and unusual dish to offer guests.   

To keep these dishes on the healthier side, my pie dough is made with olive oil and the pies are made with a single crust. I also use lighter ingredients in the fillings. These savory tarts make a great lunch entrée or you can serve them for dinner with a salad.

Tart Dough/ Oil Pie Crust

Pie crusts made with vegetable oil have a crisp, tasty crust with no trans fats or cholesterol. No rolling needed, just mix it right in the pie plate and pat it into place. This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour or 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour and 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons water 

Directions:

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like.  Whisk together the oil and water in a small bowl, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.

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

Chill the pie crust or fill and bake depending on your recipe.

Roasted Tomato Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Most of the tomatoes’ moisture evaporates when they are slow-roasted, concentrating their flavor and making them ideal for using in a tart filling. Since the size of tomatoes varies so much, use your judgment as to how many will be necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top of the tart
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Handful of chopped fresh herbs such as, basil, oregano, thyme, or chives
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled
  • 10 to 15 Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Sliced basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, salt, pepper,  egg substitute, and the herbs in a small bowl. Stir until well combined. 

Spread the filling in the prepared tart and arrange the tomatoes on top, leaving a little space between them. Sprinkle the top with additional grated Parmigiano.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Garnish top with sliced basil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Makes 24

Any size or type of tomato can be slow-roasted but the timing will vary depending on the size and juiciness of each tomato; just look for shriveled edges and just a bit of wetness in the center to tell you they’re done. Enjoy them on their own, or in salads, sandwiches, tarts, and pizzas. Since the juices are reduced, they won’t turn a tart or pizza soggy.  They will keep, layered in a jar and covered with oil, for about a week. The oil can be used in vinaigrettes or as a finishing oil to drizzle over grilled fish.

Ingredients:

  • 12 plum tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 or 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 or 3 oregano sprigs
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven. Line 1 large or 2 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sliver the garlic as thinly as possible. Cut the tomatoes in half. Cut larger ones in quarters. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of space in between. Drizzle with oil and rub the tomatoes with your fingers to coat well. Sprinkle with the garlic, herbs, and salt.

Reduce the oven to 300°F and bake for 2 to 2½ hours, until the tomatoes are shriveled and beginning to brown. Let cool, and transfer to an airtight container.

Squash and Herb Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds zucchini or yellow squash or a combination, ends trimmed
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup shredded reduced calorie Sargento Italian blend cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a hand grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously, and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture (or wrap in a kitchen towel and twist the towel to squeeze out the moisture). Place in a medium bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini. Stir in the herbs, cheese, eggs and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread the filling in the prepared tart. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crab and Red Pepper Tart

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup diced crabmeat 
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into very thin strips
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced calorie Sargento Italian Blend cheese
  • 3 large eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 whole scallions, chopped
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs and add the milk, crabmeat, scallions, cheese, seafood seasoning, salt and pepper.  Pour into the prepared tart and lay the red pepper strips on top in a decorative design.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1  cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten, or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add olive oil, green onions and spinach to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a bowl and add the ricotta cheese, eggs or egg substitute, sliced fresh chives, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared crust; sprinkle mixture with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sausage Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (pork, turkey or chicken), casing removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, chopped
  • 1 large plum tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Tart Dough, pressed into a 9” pie pan and chilled

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat skillet, add sausage and brown well.  Drain on paper towels. Drain fat from skillet and wipe clean with additional paper towels.

Add olive oil to skillet and cook until onions are translucent.

In a medium bowl combine sausage, onion, tomato, green pepper and cheese. Add flour and mix until ingredients are coated with the flour.

In another bowl mix spices with beaten egg and add evaporated milk, and add to sausage.  Mix well and pour into prepared tart.

Place the tart on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, rotate the baking pan, and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.


The history of ravioli is yet another example of the many stories and myths surrounding pasta creations. The word, ravioli, may derive from the Latin rabiola (a little turnip) whose shape resembles ravioli, or from ravolgere (to wrap) directly suggesting the way ravioli are made or in Italian, the term “ravioli” is derived from a word meaning “to stuff” .

Enjoyed worldwide, but where do ravioli actually come from?

The city of Cremona claims to be the birthplace, competing for this title with Genoa that traces the etymology of the word back to their dialect word for the pasta, rabiole, which signifies “something of little value” and, as the legend has it, originates from the practice of local sailors who would wrap the leftovers from one meal in  thin sheets of dough to use for another meal and to break the monotony of a sailor’s diet.

Although no-one can be sure when ravioli were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century manuscripts including pieces by  Francesco di Marco Datini, a merchant of Prato, Tuscany  and in a Venetian manuscript which had a ravioli recipe consisting of chopped blanched green herbs mixed with beaten egg and fresh cheese which was simmered in broth – a very traditional way of eating ravioli (al brodo) which is still observed today. References have also been found dating back to mid 16th century Rome when  Bartolomeo Scappi served them to the papal conclave of 1549.

Ravioli is a traditional Italian pasta dish made by filling rounds or squares of pasta dough with a filling, creating a sort of pasta “pillow.” The dish is wildly popular outside of Italy, and can be readily found in fresh and frozen form in most Western supermarkets. The fillings for ravioli are limited only by the imagination, as are the sauces which can complement it, and making ravioli at home is fun and relatively easy, if cooks want to experiment with new flavors.

Within Italy, depending on where you travel, you can have meat ravioli, cheese ravioli, seafood ravioli, and versions stuffed with a variety of vegetables including squash, spinach and seasonal mushrooms. Regional Italian cuisine highlights unique flavors and specialties of the area. Typically, the ravioli are boiled and served with a rich sauce, although some parts of Italy bake their ravioli in cream sauces after boiling them.

Although many consumers associate meat with ravioli, there is actually a long tradition of vegetarian ravioli in Italy. On Fridays and during Lent, vegetarian ravioli is a popular option, because for Catholics, red meat is forbidden during fast periods. Less wealthy Italian families ate vegetarian ravioli more often, and there is a long culinary history of cheese and vegetable filled ravioli with interesting spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Seafood ravioli is also common in port towns of Italy, and is often served with delicate lemon sauces that highlight the flavor of the fish.

All ravioli starts with a pasta dough, typically made by mixing egg, flour, salt, olive oil, and water. The dough is kneaded and worked to a smooth, moist consistency, and then allowed to rest while the filling is made. The vegetable or meat filling is usually cooked and cooled, then mixed with egg and/or cheese. The dough is rolled out into a flat sheet and small spoonfuls of filling are placed approximately one inch apart before another sheet of rolled out dough is carefully placed on top. The ravioli are then cut into “little pillows” with a cutter.

Making Homemade Ravioli

You don’t have to make pasta by hand to make it from scratch. Follow these  tips on using a pasta machine.

Combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 eggs beaten, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor. Process until dough forms; shape into a ball.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 dough pieces in plastic wrap; set aside.

Knead dough with pasta machine. Set rollers of pasta machine at widest setting (position 1). Feed unwrapped dough piece through flat rollers by turning handle. (Dough may crumble slightly at first but will hold together after two to three rollings.)

Lightly flour dough strip; fold strip into thirds. Feed through rollers again. Continue process 5-6 times more, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll out dough with machine keeping the sheets as wide as the pasta maker roller. Reduce setting to position 3. Feed dough strip through rollers. Without folding strip into thirds, repeat on positions 5 and 6.

Let dough stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly dry on floured kitchen towels.

Repeat kneading and rolling with reserved dough pieces.

To Shape Ravioli:

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Place the rolled dough on a cutting board and brush strips lightly with egg mixture.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, place about 1 teaspoon of filling at 1-inch intervals on one strip of dough.

Lay a second strip of dough, brushed side down, over the first. Using your fingers, press the dough around each mound of filling so that the two moistened strips stick together.

Cut dough between filling to make individual ravioli. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Fillings to use for stuffing the ravioli.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1 pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Seed and peel squash; cut into 1-inch pieces (you should have about 2 2/3 cups).
Place squash in an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss gently to coat. Roast, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
Transfer squash to a medium bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in cheese and nutmeg.

Crab Ravioli Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 ounces crab meat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions
In a medium skillet, cook pepper, onion, and garlic in hot butter over medium heat about 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in crabmeat, lemon peel, lemon juice, capers, fennel seeds, and black pepper.

Spinach Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups  ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups packed spinach (1/2 pound of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry or a pound of cooked drained fresh spinach)
  • A pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Directions:
Drain the ricotta well, if need be by squeezing it in cheesecloth, and crumble it. Mince the spinach. Mix the spinach, ricotta, eggs, and spices together.

To Cook Ravioli:

Bring a large amount of salted water to boiling in a large pot. Gently drop about one-fourth of the ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a serving dish.  Serve with your favorite sauce.



Summer Yule Nutrition

Recipes for Weight Loss by a Registered Dietitian. No Added Sugar, No Refined Grains!

ACCREDITED SENIOR PSYCHOTHERAPIST / COUNSELLOR -Dr.Fawzy Masaoud-LONDON, ENGLAND

NO DESPAIR WITH LIFE AND NO LIFE WITH DESPAIR . Email: dr.fawzyclinic2019@yahoo.com

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