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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: seasonal cooking

january_thaw

I live in a climate that is hot about nine months out of the year, so winter time, especially January, is a great time of the year to bake. I can get some extra baking in and save the baked goods in the freezer for when it gets hotter. The recipe for one of our favorite breakfast scones is below.

Soup is another favorite and while tomatoes are not in season, Roma Tomatoes are plentiful and are great for cooking. Salads are hearty at this time of year and chicken salad is a great option. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat entrees are very comforting when there is a chill in the air. Try some of the recipes below to warm you up.

Breakfast

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Almond Scones

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
One 7 oz tube almond paste
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half (cream and milk)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut the almond paste and the butter into the dry ingredients until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the almonds.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg and almond extract and add to the flour mixture. With a fork gradually stir the dough until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar.

Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1 inch apart.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Egg Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large, jarred roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 medium tortilla wraps

Directions

Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.

In a measuring cup beat the eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Add the peppers and mix.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir and cook until the eggs are set.

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Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Divide the cheese in half and sprinkle over each tortilla. Divide the egg mixture in half and place on top of the cheese. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Roll up each tortilla tightly, cut in half and serve.

Lunch

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Winter Tomato Soup

If you don’t like peeling tomatoes as much as I do, here is a technique I use to get around it. I usually purchase fresh Roma tomatoes for cooking and put them in the freezer when I get home from shopping. One day before I am going to cook with them, I place the amount I need in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, the skins slip right off and are ready for the pot.

Ingredients

6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups organic broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: add ½ cup half & half to make a creamy version
Basil for garnish

Directions

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, cover and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the the fresh and canned tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper to taste and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes with the cover ajar. Remove the pot from the heat.

With an immersion blender or in a processor, puree the soup. If adding cream, add it here and warm the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve hot garnished with basil.

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Open-Faced Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Slow-poaching the chicken breasts keeps them extra moist.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ of a green bell pepper finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, lightly toasted

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water. Bring to a very slow simmer and cook over low heat until white throughout, about 18-20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice.

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and chicken until evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread some of the chicken salad onto the toasted bread slices and top with tomato slices to serve.

Dinner

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Crab-Stuffed Flounder

This is a hearty entree and only needs one vegetable as a side. flounder comes in large sizes here on the gulf and mine weighed 14 oz. Substitute an equal amount of smaller fillets.

For 2-3

Ingredients

Crab Filling

1 tablespoon each of minced onion, celery and bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1/2 pound lump crab meat

Flounder

12-14 oz flounder fillet or fillets
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the crab. Then, gently fold in the crab. Place the flounder in a baking dish coated with olive oil.

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Spoon the crab mixture evenly over the fillet or fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake at 400°F for 20-24 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

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Southwest Stuffed Peppers

January is a good time to try different ethnic cuisines. They can spice up some typical winter produce. While I find an occasional taco or quesadilla tasty, I am generally not a fan of Southwest recipes. This recipe turned out quite well, though, and is a nice change from regular stuffed peppers. It is also good served with a green salad with ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large green bell pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 scallion, chopped
½ cup of corn kernels
¼ cup salsa
½ cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves in a small baking dish.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the ground beef until brown.

Turn off the heat and add the scallion, corn and salsa; stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pepper shells. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Drain the water from the baking dish. Sprinkle the peppers evenly with the shredded cheese. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts.

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Strawberries are prefect for entertaining and are also the perfect snack. When shopping for strawberries, select those that are firm, plump, have a bright, glossy-red appearance and are fragrant. Their fringed caps should be bright green and look fresh. Berries should be firm, but not crunchy. Avoid bruised or soft berries or those having a dull appearance.

Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so select fruit that’s at the right state of maturity — when the berry surface is fully red. Cool berries as soon as possible and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. It comes as no surprise that fresh strawberries are highly perishable. Use them as soon as possible after purchasing for the best flavor, appearance and nutrient content. Fresh strawberries should be eaten within three to four days of purchase. There are any number of recipes you can make with fresh strawberries. Below are just a few of them.

strawberry-parfait

Easy Strawberry Parfaits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
  • 8 ounces whipped low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 6 amaretto cookies, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream cheese, honey and lemon juice. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.

In four wide-mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, strawberries and crushed amaretto cookies. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve chilled.

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Light As Air Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

Makes about 10 pancakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites

Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and oil.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into the flour mixture.

Grease a griddle and preheat it over medium heat.

For each pancake pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Cook over medium heat until pancakes are golden brown (1 to 2 minutes per side); turn the pancakes over when bubbly and the edges are slightly dry.

In a blender container or food processor bowl combine the strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Cover and blend or process until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the sauce until warm. Serve over the pancakes.

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Spring Strawberry Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 oz fresh strawberries, halved
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bag fresh baby arugula (4–5 oz)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts, shelled and toasted

Directions

Microwave water on HIGH 30 seconds or until hot. Stir honey and salt into the water until dissolved; let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Place in a medium bowl: the strawberries, thyme leaves, cider vinegar and sweetened water; toss to coat. Cover and chill 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.

Place arugula in a salad bowl; top with the strawberry mixture, toasted pistachios and cheese. Toss well. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

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Stuffed Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound strawberries, top trimmed
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • Optional toppings: mini chocolate chips, blueberries or nuts

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.

Use a small paring knife to quarter the strawberries from the pointed end almost to the flat top. Don’t cut all the way through

Use a small spoon to fill the space between the strawberry quarters with the mascarpone mixture.

Sprinkle with toppings, if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve cold.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients

Shortcake

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup cold butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Strawberries

  • 5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl stir together the egg, sour cream and milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once, stirring with a fork just until moistened.

Using a small offset metal spatula, spread dough evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a small metal spatula, loosen the sides of the cake.

Place a wire rack on top of the pan; place one hand on top of rack and the other hand under the pan and carefully invert the pan with the rack. Lift the pan off shortcake. Cool on wire rack.

Combine 4 cups of the sliced strawberries and the 3 tablespoons sugar and, using a potato masher, mash the berries slightly; set aside.

To serve:

Cut the shortcake in half horizontally. Spoon the sweetened strawberry mixture and the whipped cream over the shortcake bottom. Replace the shortcake top.

Spread the remaining 1 cup sliced strawberries over the top of the cake.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a chilled bowl combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.


new-potatoes

I oven roasted 1 lb of small new potatoes last week. I used half of the potatoes as a side for dinner and saved the remainder to make a potato salad for another meal. See the recipe below.

I also sautéed one pound of green beans (they are in season here where I live) and served half with the potatoes for dinner and saved half for a green bean salad later in the week. I prefer to saute green beans rather than boil them and the recipe is below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a heavy large baking dish. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the herbs, garlic and oil together until blended and then pour over the potatoes.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the potatoes, spacing them evenly apart, in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, for about 45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green beans and seasonings. cover the pan.

Simmer the beans, turning occasionally until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Serve half for dinner and refrigerate the remaining beans for the salad recipe below.

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Oven Fried Chicken

4 servings

This chicken tastes even better cold the next day.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and add the garlic. Set aside to cool.

On a sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, panko crumbs, paprika and salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the meted butter and then press the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared pan.

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Drizzle any remaining butter over the chicken. (Chicken can be prepared in advance of cooking and refrigerated until cooking time.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crispy, brown and cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

Potato Salad

seasonal potatosalad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ lb leftover oven roasted new potatoes (about 8), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Directions

Combine all the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until dinner time.

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Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Half a pound of sautéed green beans, chilled
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the mustard, vinegar and olive oil in a serving bowl. Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Add the green beans and cherry tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

 


stuffedcabbage4

Below is a dinner we had last week that makes use of “in season” produce: cabbage and Italian kale. It also demonstrates my frugal habits.

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

This dish goes well with mashed potatoes. I served Mashed Potatoes with Kale to make the dish a bit healthier, plus we like mashed potatoes mixed with greens. Swiss chard also works well. See the recipe below.

Makes 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cabbage

Meat Filling

  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sauce

  • 2 cups strained or crushed Italian tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • Half of a small onion, sliced thin

Directions

Prepare the cabbage:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer cabbage leaves. Remove the cabbage core and carefully peel 8 large leaves off the head. Blanch leaves for 1 minute (half at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels so that they dry and cool.

I saved the rest of the cabbage for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Make the filling:

Combine all the meat filling ingredients with a pinch or two of salt and black pepper.

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Make the cabbage rolls:

Form some of the meat filling mixture into a golf ball-sized rounds and place on the cooled cabbage leaves. Fold in the sides of the cabbage leaves and roll up jelly roll style wrapping the cabbage around the filling.. Repeat with the remaining leaves and mixture.

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Make the sauce:

In a casserole dish large enough to hold the cabbage rolls, combine the sauce ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so that the stuffing remains intact. Cover the dish with foil a and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover the baking dish and continue to bake for 15 minutes more.

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Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.


seasonalmarchStarting with this post, I will include posts each week about cooking with seasonal and local (if possible) ingredients.

When buying produce in season, you are not only getting fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavor, you are also getting the best price! Try incorporating a few of the “in season” produce items in your market into your weekly menu. Below is a dinner we had last week that made use of what is in season where I live: asparagus and tuna. February and March are good months for catching tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. I also made this tuna steak work for two meals. Earlier in the week, I grilled a tuna steak and we ate about 2/3 of the tuna steak and I saved 1/3 to make the tuna cakes in the recipe below. Asparagus are at their peak right now and prices are quite reasonable, so they are on our dinner table each week.

seasonaltuna

Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and trim the woody stems from the asparagus spears. Place them in a baking dish large enough so that they lay in a single layer. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spread them back into a single layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Tuna Cakes

Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side, if desired. Recipe below.

tunafilet

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 oz cooked (leftover grilled) tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

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Shred the tuna into a medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients, except the Panko crumbs and oil and mix very well.

tuna3

Sprinkle a coating of Panko crumbs on a sheet of wax paper. Divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.

tuna4

Press the panko crumbs into the tuna cakes as you form the patties. Refrigerate the tuna cakes for a few hours before cooking. They will hold together better during cooking.

tuna5

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties to the pan and, cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

 Light Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.



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