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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: meatballs

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In Italy, there are sugo and salsa. Sugo derives from succo (juices) and refers to pan drippings that come from cooking meat or from a rich meat-based sauce, such as, sugo alla Bolognese and thick vegetable sauces (which often go over pasta). A salsa is a semi-liquid raw or cooked sauce that’s used as a condiment. It can go over pasta or used to season other dishes, for example, pesto alla genovese or salsa verde that is served over boiled meats or potatoes. If a sauce is especially delicate, it may be called “salsina.”

The passage from sugo/salsa to sauce/gravy must have occurred when immigrant families settled into new neighborhoods in the U.S. and became an Italian-American family/neighborhood tradition more than anything else. Some immigrants translated the Italian for what they put on their pasta as gravy, while others translated it as sauce and the translations have been passed down through the generations, becoming the definitive lable in the process. People get amazingly passionate over things like this.

The aroma of a garlic-laden tomato sauce spiked with sausage, meatballs and rolled-up braciole can bring tears to the eyes of many Italian-Americans. Sunday gravy, evokes memories of weekend family gatherings in which mom or grandma presided over the constantly stirred pot of sauce and meat, and various relatives were tasked with procuring the essential provisions to round out the dinner—the cannoli and sesame bread from the bakery or the wine from the cellar.

Sunday gravy was more than just a big meal. In close-knit Italian-American homes, it was a virtual religion. The best Sunday gravy simmered on the stove for hours and the meats in the sauce became a symbol of plenty. Meat had been a rarity in the old country and, if there was any of it at all in a meal, it was usually pork. But in the U.S., immigrant women bought beef because they could. The long, slow cooking time was also a time for families to spend with each other, reinforcing ties that could withstand the harsh realities of the outside world.

When I was young, my mother would make Italian gravy every Sunday. She would start at dawn and work in the kitchen pretty much until dinner time, which was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Not only did she prepare this sauce with meatballs, sausage, etc. for pasta, but she would also cook a pork roast or an eye of the round roast, vegetables and salad. In those days, my grandfather would come to dinner and bring Hershey chocolate bars, ice cream and a jug of homemade wine.

This tradition is time-consuming and quite a lot of work. Not the healthiest of meals, either, with all the meat and oil used in its preparation. I make tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage quite often but on a much smaller scale with a lot less fat and with healthier meat for the meatballs and I do the same for Sunday gravy. Just for the fun of it, I make Italian gravy once or twice a year. This time it is for the blog, so you can see just exactly what Sunday Gravy is all about.

Italian Gravy

The Meat

The Meat

The Sauce Ingredients

The Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients

Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into links
  • 11 to 12 ounces boneless pork ribs
  • Meatballs, recipe below
  • Braciole, recipe below
  • 3 (26-ounce) containers of Italian chopped tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2 (26-ounce) containers of Italian crushed tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
  • 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • Water
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Meatballs

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 pound pasture-raised ground pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Braciole

  • 1 pound beef top round, flank steak or strip steak, pounded thin
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large clove garlic chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup pignolis – toasted and chopped, optional
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • String (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

Pasta

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

To make the braciole:

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Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin the meat. Cut the meat into 5-6” slices.

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, chopped parsley, shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the beef rolls. Fold in the sides over the filling of each roll. Roll up each slice and secure with kitchen string.

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To make the gravy:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coat them with olive oil cooking spray. Place the sausage links on one baking sheet. The second baking pan is for the meatballs.

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In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the boneless pork ribs. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned all over. Place on a clean plate.

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Add the braciole rolls and brown them on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the pork and cover with foil to keep warm.

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Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste cans with water and add to the pot. Stir into the onions and let cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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Pour in all the tomatoes and fill one tomato container with water and add it to the pot. Add the seasonings (crushed red pepper – parsley), the pork ribs and the sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the cooked meatballs and braciole to the gravy after it has simmered for one hour. Simmer for an additional 3 to 4 hours (if you want it thick and rich). Stir in the fresh basil just before adding the gravy to the pasta.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Once cooked, drain and add the gravy. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve the meat on a big platter, so diners can choose what they want.

To make the meatballs and sausage:

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Add the water to the bread crumbs, mix well and let sit for a few minutes. Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cheese and parsley to the meat. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt and pepper and add to the meat mixture. Add the moistened bread crumbs. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. Using your hands, roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls.Two pounds of meat should make about 18 to 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the foil lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned, turning them over after 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

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Place the pan of sausage links in the oven at the same time and bake the sausage until browned. Turn over halfway through baking. Add the sausage to the gravy when the pork ribs are added.

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The modern slow cooker was developed by Rival Industries with the trademarked name Crock Pot. This name is sometimes used informally to refer to any slow cooker. Rival purchased and refined the design of a bean-pot called the Beanery from Naxon Co. of Chicago.

In the early ’70s, the Rival Company, known for its “Juice-O-Mat,” “Ice-O-Mat,” and “Can-O-Mat” convenience appliances, resurrected the idea of slow cooking. The company acquired the rights to the “Beanery,” a primitive slow cooker, and gave the appliance a much-needed makeover. The Crock-Pot slow cooker was born.

The timing couldn’t have been better. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Americans were encouraged to conserve electricity, and Crock-Pots operated at a very low wattage. In addition, many women were abandoning their traditional roles as homemakers and the Crock-Pot and its motto—”Cooks all day while the cook’s away”—fit their new lifestyle.

The slow cooker is a versatile appliance that’s just as suited to vegetarian foods as it is meat and poultry, everyday meals, and entertaining occasions. You can make hearty, healthy dishes for the whole family.  Simply add ingredients to the slow cooker, get on with your day, and come home to a kitchen filled with tempting aromas.

The slow cooker, which is essentially an electric pot with a stoneware insert, can do what no oven or stovetop burner can: cook food at consistently low and even temperatures for what might be as long as 10 or 12 hours. Dinner cooks while you’re out.

Flavor is one of the big advantages to meals you cook in the pot. You can get a deeply flavored meal at the end of an 8- or 10-hour slow simmer. Time-saving is another reason for the slow cooker’s popularity. Plus, they’re practical, since a slow cooker holds up to five quarts, you can definitely plan to have leftovers.

There is planning involved, however. The pot is perfect for cheaper cuts of meat that need long, gentle cooking to become tender: beef short ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and lamb shanks. Fish and dairy products, however, don’t fare as well; both will break down during the cooking. Chicken can get mushy, so pay strict attention to cook times for chicken recipes.

Always put vegetables in first. Vege­tables take longer to cook than meat does, so for layering purposes, start with vegetables, then meat, and finally seasonings and small amounts of liquid. To prevent overcooking, fresh dairy products, pasta, or instant rice should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, or as your recipe directs.

Judith Finlayson, author of Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes and The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes, answers some slow-cooker questions.

How do I prevent meat from drying out?

To prevent poultry from drying out, use chicken thighs—they have more fat and won’t dry out as quickly, says Finlayson. Cook thighs for about six hours and breasts for a maximum of five hours on low heat. Beef, depending on the cut, is much more forgiving, she says. For better results, use stewing beef, short ribs, or brisket as opposed to a rib steak or a sirloin.

How can I prevent flavors from becoming muddy?

“Start with a good recipe and quality ingredients and you will be a long way from having muddy flavors,” says Finlayson. For fresher flavors, add chopped herbs and vegetables with shorter cooking times about 10 minutes before the meal is ready.

How can I clean my slow cooker without lots of soaking and scrubbing?

Though the slow cooker’s insert can be heavy, cleaning shouldn’t be a problem. Slow cookers retain moisture which should prevent scorching on the bottom, says Finlayson. Difficulty cleaning may indicate a technical issue such as the heat being on too high for too long.

Can I cook frozen meats in my slow cooker?

Cooking frozen meats in the slow cooker is an absolute no, says Finlayson. Harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, flourish in moist environments at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Using frozen meat may cause food to remain at an unsafe temperature for too long.

Is it safe to leave the slow cooker on when I’m not home?

Leaving the slow cooker on is perfectly safe. In fact, it’s comparable to leaving a light bulb on while you’re out, says Finlayson.

Why does my food get overcooked, even on the low setting?

Slow cookers are all manufactured differently and they don’t all cook at the same pace, says Finlayson: “Know your slow cooker. Use quality recipes, and if you are consistently cooking faster or slower, adjust your time accordingly.” Keep in mind: There are no precise guidelines, and it may take a bit of trial and error to fix the issue.

Can I cut a slow cooker recipe in half?

If cutting a recipe in half, you should also reduce the size of your slow cooker so that the heat distributes evenly, says Finlayson. If you only own one slow cooker, make the whole recipe and freeze the leftovers or stick to soups and stews, since the size of the slow cooker isn’t as important as it is when cooking grains.

Chicken Cacciatore

Makes: 6 servings

Cook: 6 hrs to 7 hrs (low) or 3 to 3 1/2 hours (high)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 to4 pounds of meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fresh cremini and/or button mushrooms
  • 1- 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Pasta, cooked, optional

Directions

Place flour in a plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, a few at a time, shaking to coat. In an extra-large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, half at a time if necessary, in hot oil about 12 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Transfer chicken to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add mushrooms to skillet; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to cooker. Add drained tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, carrots, wine, salt and pepper to mixture in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Before serving, stir in basil, parsley and thyme.
Serve over pasta with salad on the side or skip the pasta and serve with Italian bread.
       

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Slow-Cooker Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna With Romaine Salad  

Serves 6

Total Time: 4hr 15m

Ingredients

  • 2-10-ounce packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
  • 3 cups marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 6 regular lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (6 ounces)

Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into strips (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, and ½ cup of the Parmesan. In a second bowl, mix together the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup water.

Spread 3/4 cup of the marinara mixture in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Top with 2 noodles (breaking to fit), 3/4 cup of the remaining marinara mixture, half the spinach mixture, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella; repeat.

Top with the remaining noodles, marinara mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low until the noodles are tender, 3 ½ to 4 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the lettuce, cucumber, and onion. Toss to combine and serve with the lasagna.

Tip:  If your slow-cooker insert is broiler-safe, broil the cooked lasagna until the cheese is golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Italian Meatball Stew                                                                                                                                                              

Total Time: 5 hrs 10 mins

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil, crushed
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen Italian style vegetables, defrosted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic. Form into 2 inch balls. Place meatballs in bottom of crock pot.

Combine tomato paste, broth, seasoned salt, oregano and basil.  Pour mixture over meat. Cover.

Cook on low 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Stir in vegetables. Cover and cook on high 10-15 mins until mixture is hot.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup                                                                                                                        Hearty Bean and Barley Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, optional
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Put beans, water, tomatoes and their juices, garlic, celery, carrots, onion, barley, bay leaf, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, herb blend, pepper, and Porcini mushrooms (if using) in a slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

Stir in the spinach, cheese, and vinegar, cover, and let the soup cook until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with olive oil.

Italian Smothered Steak

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. boneless beef round steak
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce or homemade marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into slices (about 1 cup)

Directions

Cut beef into 6 serving-size pieces; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, layer beef and onion. Pour pasta sauce over top.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, stir in tortellini and zucchini. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tortellini are tender.



The keys to good Italian grilling are the use of olive oil and fresh herbs.  The fresh herbs play a large role because they help bring out the full flavor of the dish.  The Italian grill also uses a lot of skewered meatsl, which is great for parties. So, if you’re looking for something a little different when planning your next cookout, you might want to try it Italian-style. Spiedini, which means “skewers”—are one of the many ways Italians enjoy grilled food. Basically, spiedini are the equivalent of “shish kebab.”  The skewers can be made of metal or wood—though, sometimes, simply rosemary sprigs are used. (If using wooden skewers, first soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning.)

The preparation for spiedini is simple: Small chunks of meat or fish are placed on skewers (each one an individual serving)—sometimes including vegetables—which are then cooked over a grill. In addition to being versatile—really any combination of meat, vegetable or fruit that can be cut and skewered may be used—spiedini are a great time saver. They may be served as an appetizer, accompaniment (contorno), entrée, or dessert. In fact, using the suggestions here, you can prepare an entire meal outside on the grill—from start to finish—without the need for any indoor cooking at all.
As appetizers, vegetables work well. First, brush the grill with vegetable oil and then grill long slices of eggplant and/or zucchini—cut the vegetables on a diagonal or longitudinally so the slices will be long enough not to fall through the grill grate.. Before serving, drizzle the grilled vegetables with olive oil and garnish with herbs, such as parsley and thyme, and chopped (or roasted) garlic.
If you like anchovies, another great antipasto idea is “Spiedini di alici pomodoro e olive”—grilled fresh anchovies (which are then rolled) and sliced zucchini, with raw tomato wedges and pitted black olives. These spiedini can be served on a bed of lettuce-heart leaves, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with basil.

As a main course, meat spiedini are the most popular in Italy. For these, it’s important to choose tender cuts of meat—such as chicken breast, lamb, pork, and sausages—evenly cut into approximately one-inch pieces. If you want to use beef, select tender cuts, but they don’t have to be particularly lean. To make Spiedini misti di carne (mixed meats), alternate onions, peppers slices, and cubes of various meats, and then grill. A leaf of fresh sage and/or a bay leaf between the pieces of meat will add flavor. To enhance the taste, try marinating the meat—already cut and ready to be skewered—for a few hours prior to grilling, mixing now and then. To make the marinade, simply coat the pieces of meat with olive oil (not too much), and add rosemary leaves (finely chopped), sage, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Fish spiedini (spiedini di mare) are also popular in Italy. For these, the most commonly used seafood are shrimp, scallops, tuna, swordfish, cuttlefish or calamari. The fish is usually lightly marinated or else brushed before grilling with olive oil, herbs (parsley or thyme), sometimes garlic, and salt and pepper. Spiedini di mare are usually served with lemon and a fresh green salad.

Grilled fruit can provide a sweet, healthy finale to your outdoor feast. The grilling process caramelizes the fruits’ natural sugars and concentrates the flavors. Peaches, pears, and apples—simply cut in half and pitted—are great for grilling. Adding just a little lemon juice will preserve the fruit’s color and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon will enhance the natural flavors. Be sure to brush the grill with vegetable oil so the fruit doesn’t stick. You can then serve the fruit alone or with scoop of ice cream. It’s delicious with yogurt too. Or, try a fresh fruit spiedini using cubes of fresh pecorino and raw pears; or you can serve spiedini di frutta (mixed fresh fruits)—using slices of uncooked peaches, apples, pears, and whole strawberries. Squeeze lemon juice over the fruit to prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.

The following is a list of essential ingredients for the Italian Grill pantry:

  • Anchovies (cured): Salted anchovies are a key ingredient in Italian grilling, any recipe that calls for them.
  • Bread Crumbs: A strange ingredient for the grill, but a lot of meats have a light coating of breadcrumbs..
  • Bread  Cubes: The bread cubes are used in a lot of skewered recipes in Italy, generally they are cut up in 1-inch cubes.
  • Caciocavallo: A cheese made from cow’s milk and is a firm cheese.  The cheese is usually in the shape of a spindle and can  be found in Italian stores or very well stocked grocery stores.  If you are unable to find it, you may substitute with provolone cheese
  • Lemons: The juice of lemons are used a lot in grilling, and only fresh lemon juice should be used.
  • Pancetta: An Italian-style that is cured, but not smoked like American bacon.
  • Flat-leaf parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Fennel or Sage are the most common types of herbs used.
  • Pecorino: A hard cheese made in Italy that is made from sheep’s milk.   This cheese can be found at most grocery stores,
  • Prosciutto: Domestic prosciutto is good for cooking with, but imported from Italy is far superior.
  • Olive Oil: Use inexpensive extra-virgin olive oil, unless a recipe calls for something else.

Appetizers

Grilled Summer Squash with Pesto and Balsamic Syrup

Ingredients                                                                        

  • 1-1/2 lb. assorted summer squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a high gas or charcoal grill fire. In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and let drain in a colander for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, put the  the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 8 to 10 minutes.
Toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons. extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, flipping once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Arrange on a platter, dot with the pesto, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and the balsamic syrup to taste. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Grilled Bread Salad With Basil and Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf (about 1/2 pound) rustic Italian bread (like ciabatta), cut lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (both white and green parts)
  • 12 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 8 oz bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls), halved or substitute a large fresh mozzarella cut into 1-inch pieces.

Directions

Prepare a medium-high fire on a gas or charcoal grill. Clean and oil the grates to prevent sticking. Using a pastry brush, dab both sides of the bread slices with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Grill the bread until it browns and gets good grill marks, about 2 minutes. Grill the other side until browned, about 2 minutes, and transfer to a large cutting board to cool. Rub the cut sides of the garlic over the bread and discard the garlic. Put the cherry tomatoes and scallions in a large serving bowl with the basil. Cut the bread into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining oil with the red-wine vinegar, pour over the bread mixture, and toss well. Let the salad sit for up to 2 hours before serving. Just before serving, fold in the bocconcini and season with salt to taste.

Main Dishes

Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken  

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                          

  • 4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1. lb.)
  • Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/4 lb. Italian fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto (preferably imported)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare a medium charcoal fire or light a gas grill to medium high.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken breasts. Cut through each one horizontally almost all the way through and open it like a book. Sprinkle the chicken all over with 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt and pepper. Layer the basil leaves and fontina evenly on half of each breast and then fold it closed. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each breast to hold it closed and then brush lightly on both sides with the olive oil.
Reduce the heat on the gas grill to medium. Grill the chicken breasts, covered, until they are well marked, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook, turning every few minutes, until the chicken is just firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the breast registers 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes more. Let cool for a couple of minutes and then serve.

Grilled Rosemary-Salmon Skewers

Ingredients             

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Red Onion, cut into 1 inch squares and/or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skinned or tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Combine rosemary, oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add salmon; toss to coat. Alternating the salmon and tomatoes/red onion squares, divide them among eight 12-inch skewers.  Oil the grill rack. Grill the skewers, carefully turning once, until the salmon is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. 

Grilled Sicilian-style Sirloin Steak

In this recipe the steaks are marinated for about 12 hours before breading and grilling.  

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and more for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 sirloin steaks (about 3 3/4 pounds total)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste

Directions

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of the olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, basil, and pepper to taste in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan.  Dip both sides of the steaks in this mixture and then leave to marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 12 hours, turning several times.  Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade.
Spread the bread crumbs on a large plate and mix in the cheese and oregano.  Salt the steaks to taste and dredge in the bread crumbs, patting the steaks to coat them thoroughly.
Place the steaks on the grill and cook, turning only once, to desired doneness, 12 to 15 minutes in all for rare.

Grilled Skewered Meatballs

This Sicilian recipe is an example of cucina arabo-sicula, Sicilian cuisine influenced by the medieval Arab era. The Arab influence is evident in the molding of the ground meat around the skewer.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1/2 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into eighteen 1-inch cubes or you can substitute vegetables, such as sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
  • Twelve 8- to 10-inch wooden skewers
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for basting or drizzling

Serve with the Grilled Pepper Recipe, below.

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, mix the ground beef, egg substitute, pecorino, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Form the meat with wet hands to prevent sticking into 18 walnut-sized balls.  Leave the meat to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on medium.
Double skewer all the ingredients: place a meatball on a cutting board and skewer the meat balls alternately with the  bread cubes, keeping the 2 skewers parallel to each other about 1/2 inch apart.
Place the skewers on the grill and cook, turning occasionally and basting with olive oil, until the meat and bread are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Grilled Red, Yellow and Green Peppers

Grilling bell peppers of different colors is common in Sicily and Sardinia and makes a very attractive presentation.  Their flavor is a natural accompaniment to grilled meats.  The charred skin of the peppers is peeled off before serving, leaving the smoky flavor.  You don’t have to core or halve the peppers before grilling.
Yield:  4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Place the peppers on the grill and cook, turning, until they have blackened on all sides.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove the core and seeds.  Cut into strips and arrange attractively on a platter.
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the peppers at the last moment and serve.

Dessert

Grilled Fruit Skewers

Spiedini alla frutta

Ingredients

  • 2 golden delicious or gala apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into 8 pieces
  • 2 ripe but fairly firm peaches, pitted and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 24 fresh mint leaves
  • Sugar

Directions

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

Arrange apple, banana, peach and pineapple on a platter.  Squeeze lemon over apple and banana.  Alternately thread fruit and mint leaves onto 8 skewers.

Sprinkle fruit with sugar.  Let stand until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Lightly brush grill rack with oil.  Grill fruit, turning once, until lightly browned and softened, about 5 minutes.



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