Tag Archives: Italian Recipes

White-Bean, Zucchini, Tomato & Parmesan Salad for Grilling

Just in time for your Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day celebration! This quick, easy salad is packed full of flavor, healthy ingredients, and versatility. This will serve four as a side dish, and goes well with a simple grilled steak, salmon, or even chicken.  Originally inspired Martha Stewart’s  White-Bean Salad with Zucchini and Parmesan, I felt that adding one simple ingredient and a little more oil sent an already-delicious recipe over the top.  Perfect for people on South Beach Diet, or for anyone trying to eat healthier.

Admittedly, when I first read Martha’s version, I wasn’t sure how I’d like raw green beans and zucchini in a salad.  But, as the Iron Chef says: “with an open mind and empty stomach”, I recalled that I once had the pleasure of attending a cooking class offered by Chef Charlie Trotter, now known for his involvement in the raw food movement just before his book was published, Raw, (co-authored by Tim Turner). I’d also had the pleasure of dining at Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago  – and despite the big-ticket it came with – my socks were knocked off.

All of my doubts disappeared the first time I made Martha’s recipe, and as often is the case, I was inspired to make it even better.  This easy yet impressive recipe serves 4 as a side dish. I double-dog dare you to eat raw!

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2  pound zucchini (1 large), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • about 3 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (2/3 cup)
  • 2 good, ripe plum tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

DO THIS:

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice, and oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.  I love this with grilled salmon or steak and a crusty Italian bread to soak up the extra dressing.

Note: The texture of the Parmesan in this dish makes all the difference.  I used Stella Parmesan, and crumbled it in my Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus for perfect tiny bites of cheese flavor.  Shavings or grates just aren’t the same – and, at the risk of sounding like a foodie snob, if you are the canned Parmesan type… this recipe probably isn’t for you 😉

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Filed under All Other Recipes, Budget Friendly, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Grilled Onion & Mushroom Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese

I prepared this side dish to compliment my grill recipe Chicken Pesto Burgers with Tomato Topping, but it would also be excellent with grilled steak or other grilled meats.  It’s easy to prepare and comes together in less than 15 minutes, including the grilling time. It’s FANTASTICO!  This will serve 4 as a side dish.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 large vidalia onion, peeled, & cut into 8 wedges, leaving part of the root intact
  • 4 oz. white or cremini mushrooms, quartered and stems trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups loosely packed young arugula (large leaves are tough and bitter), rinsed and spun dry
  • 2-4 oz. crumbled goat cheese, as desired (I could eat the whole package with a spoon)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

DO THIS:

Preheat grill to medium.  In a medium bowl, toss together the onion wedges, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper.   Set aside and make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, sugar; season with coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Grill for about 10 minutes on a grilling rack or a vegetable basket, or until onions are slightly charred and mushrooms have cooked down a bit. Transfer to a serving bowl.  Allow to cool to room temperature; then toss together with arugula and dressing.  Top with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Note: if  you are unfamiliar with pine nuts, they usually can be found in the baking section of your grocery store, or with the display of Italian products next to pasta.  To toast, place them in a small skillet over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes or until just golden.

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Filed under French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Chicken Pesto Burgers with Tomato Topping

One of my summer choices for a healthy burger is this recipe – what was originally inspired by a recipe called Chicken Burgers with Warm Mushroom Salad. I thought the original burger recipe itself had potential, so I just changed it up a bit and made it even better.   Admittedly, I do my own thing on the salad –  I don’t think her salad recipe does the burger justice.  I followed the notion of involving mushrooms in the side dish, however, since it is in keeping with the Italian influence and compliments the burger well. Wait till you taste these!

I have to give credit where it’s due.  In her 2003 cookbook,  More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes, Linda Gassenheimer collected and created and some wonderful gourmet-inspired recipes that are appropriate for many of the more popular low-carb diets.  It targets diet crazes such as Protein Power, Atkins, and now, South Beach Diet. I refer back to this book frequently when I am in Phase One of the SBD, for something more inspiring than lean chicken and a pile of roasted vegetables.  This is an excellent supplement for the SBD books because it has beautiful pictures and recipes that are a step up from the menus in the original diet plans, and most are quick and easy to make.  Since that book was published, there have been more, updated versions – equally beautiful and with great new recipes, and I intend to purchase this one called Good Carb Meals in Minutes, which is geared for the latter phases of low-carb diets and appropriate for anyone who just wants to eat healthy, delicious meals and not spend an hour in the kitchen doing so.

My modified recipe takes about 30 minutes, so if you’re using a charcoal grill (which I prefer), light it up and get started.  Makes 6 burgers.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 lb. package of ground chicken
  • 2 turkey sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated store-bought pesto sauce
  • coarse salt & fresh ground pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon each
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, tops and bottoms trimmed, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dressing from the Grilled Onion & Mushroom Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese recipe
  • 6 slices Gouda cheese

DO THIS:

In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground chicken, ground sausage, pesto, salt and pepper.  Take care not to overwork the meat, as is it easy to toughen.  Form into 6 patties, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place on a plate or platter and refrigerate until ready to grill and prepare side dishes.

Prepare topping:

In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, scallions, and dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook burgers: Heat grill to medium.  Oil the grates well with vegetable oil (chicken burgers stick easily). Grill patties, turning only once, about 6-8 minutes per side.  During the last minute of grilling, top burgers with Gouda slices, put cover on grill down until just melted.   Serve on toasted or grilled whole-wheat sandwich buns and top with tomato mixture.  Phase One dieters, serve without buns or open-face with one slice of toasted whole-grain bread.

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Filed under Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Spaghetti Bolognese (Bolognaise) for the Busy Mom

A classic dish, Spaghetti Bolognese was difficult to categorize in this article, because its origin is arguable.  While the concept of this meat sauce originated in Northern Italy in the “Bologna” region, the French would often take food influences from bordering countries and adopt their own recipes, still naming the dish by its inspirational region.  While it’s not exactly “quick”, it’s definitely easy, and much of the time is simmering.

Clearly, the idea of saturating food in wine is French.  I could spend more time and research to ascertain which came first – Bolognaise, the French spelling, or Bolognese, the Italian spelling – but this is a cooking site and not a history blog.  So, to make everyone happy, I’ve put it both categories. And now, on with our favorite family recipe!

This version of a classic recipe began with my mom-in-law, a French native and a fabulous cook.  Made traditionally, it simply was not palatable for my American kids.   I don’t give up easily, and want them to be exposed to all tastes – so they can grow up to be foodie aficionados. 🙂  Here, I’ve reduced the amount of wine and chopped up the veggies finely enough to appeal to the kids, but have not lost the integrity of the sauce.

The most important element of this recipe is that the meat is added AFTER the sauce is almost done – this is the family secret I am sharing with you – and the results are over the top.  Don’t be afraid of not browning the meat first – it will be completely cooked in the sauce.  You will note by the photo, there is no problem getting those kiddos to eat this company-worthy spaghetti recipe.  And if you own an awesome Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus that you can get at my store,  (I use it almost every day!) you can have all your veggies chopped in a minute and have this sauce prepped in no time.  After you have poured yourself a glass of wine to begin cooking, do the following to serve 4-6 people:

GATHER THIS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for thinning, if needed)
  • 1 cup medium-bodied quality red wine, such as a Cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 15-oz can tomato puree, or diced tomatoes run through the processor
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 pounds good-quality ground beef (preferably organic, but at least sirloin)
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • White shredded cheese of your choice to serve: French like Swiss for this dish, Italians like Parm – you decide!

DO THIS:

In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot; saute for a few minutes until softened.  Add the mushrooms; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the stock, wine, tomato puree, seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the pasta package for cooking the noodles.   I prefer my noodles a minute or two after al dente, as usually recommended – just do them how you like – people are funny about texture.

While the pasta is cooking, begin crumbling tiny pieces of the ground beef into the sauce with your fingers.  Don’t worry about making anything symmetrical; the pieces of beef will shrink with cooking and just be tiny bits of meaty goodness.  Avoid large chunks of meat. This will take a couple of minutes, and will be done about the same time as your pasta, so it works out well.  Stir all the meat into the sauce until it’s incorporated.  Cover the pot; simmer another 10 minutes.  Longer is not necessary and will toughen the meat; thereby defeating the purpose of adding it at the end.

Drain your pasta, and return it to its pan.  Spoon one ladleful of sauce into the noodles. Toss to coat.  To serve, pile noodles into bowls.  Top with additional ladles-full of sauce; top with shredded cheese and minced parsley.  I like it with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping, a green salad, and an abundance of red wine!

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Filed under Budget Friendly, French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites

Steve’s Off-the-Hook Seafood Linguine Alfredo

photo courtesy of T o n y at flickr.com

Need a comfort dish that’s gourmet enough for friends?  Look no further!  Make it as written by my foodie friend Steve, or with a few lightened-up modifications I suggest. You won’t be disappointed by either, and the best part? With all your seafood prepped, throw it together in 12 minutes!

Steve and I have known each other since high school and recently re-connected on Facebook.  He and his wife have a great appreciation for good food and wine – something, of course, near and dear to mine and my husband’s hearts.  While we still haven’t seen each other in person, we talk virtually about cooking; and about dishes that make our mutual network friends salivate.  When he posted about his “artery-clogging” comfort dish of Seafood Linguine Alfredo that he is famous for with family and guests,  I knew we would be foodie friends for a long time!

Steve was kind enough to share this recipe with me, knowing full well I would be reviewing it.  Now, readers… we all know that anything dubbed “alfredo” is not exactly in the diet books.  I figured it wasn’t going to be heart-healthy.  I saved making this one for my birthday treat, because I had plans to go back on to the South Beach Diet soon after making it.   What I wasn’t prepared for, was the proportion of the forbidden foods in his recipe (cream, butter, cheese).  Here is the original recipe, as he shared with me.

GATHER THIS:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Heavy cream (see below)
  • Butter (see below)
  • 1 lb uncooked, peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 8 oz quality crab meat (no imitation)
  • 8 oz each Parmesan , Romano & Asiago cheeses
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
  • 1 lb. linguine noodles

DO THIS:

Cook the linguine noodles per package instructions and to your desired tenderness.  As your noodles are boiling,  cook your shrimp over medium heat in a stick of butter (he uses a wok for this – brilliant!) and 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.  When just about cooked, remove shrimp with slotted spoon into a medium bowl; set aside. Add again more butter, olive oil and seasonings.

Cook the bay scallops; when done, remove with slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the shrimp.  To pan or skillet –  again add another stick of butter, more olive oil and seasonings. Drain noodles.  Return noodles to pot, add in the cooked shrimp and scallops from the bowl.  Pour in the butter mixture, pour in the crab meat, pour in the heavy cream ( half a pint or so ).  Then, pour in all three grated cheeses, stir; add milk or cream until you have the right consistency. Serve immediately.

Steve and reader friends… this is a recipe for a bona fide food coma! While I have a true appreciation for all great food, wine, and the glory of  butter and cream – (remember, I’m married to a Frenchman) – I simply could not handle this recipe exactly the way in which he intended – others might.   The recipe itself is fantastic.  I just needed to lighten it up a bit to accommodate our own tastes.

I really wanted to remain loyal to the integrity of the recipe, to honor Steve’s claims that it is the best of the best.  So, I kept an open mind, even as I was preparing it.  I thought, “if I can fathom that an extra stick of butter will make this better, I will keep it in”.   For me, it just wasn’t necessary.  This recipe was decadent, even with a significant reduction in the amount of butter and cream.

My proportions were almost the same, with the exception of the butter and oil: I simply reduced the amount of each stick of butter by two-thirds (using approximately 3-4 tablespoons of butter in each panful), and only 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.  I also eliminated the “or so..” option of the heavy cream.  I used exactly one half-pint (small container) of heavy cream, and thinned with chicken stock a bit to acquire the desired saucy consistency.   The only other thing to note, is that since he didn’t specify the amount of (assumed) dried herbs to use, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning blend for each batch of seafood that I sautéed.  Steve, if I did not get this right – I can edit!  The beauty of blogging.

So what’s the rating? This dish was delicious, no question.   Will I make it again?  Most definitely.  Especially because of the ease with which it came together.   Will I change anything? Yes, as follows:

  1. Reduce butter amounts as suggested above.
  2. Incorporate 1/4 cup white wine or 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice  into last step of tossing ingredients together to add a little brightness and thin the heaviness a bit.  Then I would garnish with a few thinly sliced lemons – it needs some color.  That being said, the general rule in presenting is that you shouldn’t garnish with an ingredient that hasn’t been used in the dish.
  3. Use sea scallops,  cartilage removed, cut into quarters or halves.  Sea scallops are more tender, sweeter – in general, a finer shellfish (albiet, more expensive). If you’re going to go all out with butter and cream, you may as well get the sea scallops…
  4. Reduce the amount of dried herbs used and add 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil in the last step. Garnish at the end with a sprig of basil for color.
  5. Use whole-wheat linguine pasta.  It is just as delicious, especially with this kind of recipe; and it will offset the less healthy ingredients giving you some nutritional value.
  6. Add some fresh chopped spinach to the last step – (Steve does this too) – the pasta will be hot enough to wilt the spinach and you will get a great nutritional addition to your meal.

All of my own personal recommendations aside,  Steve knows a good recipe – and that quality seafood is what it’s all about.  Regardless of how much cream or butter you use, the key to a great recipe is fresh ingredients. If you plan on going all out on a wonderful recipe such as this, don’t skimp by using imitation crabmeat or pre-cooked shrimp (the ultimate sin)!  Enjoy this with a nice, light mesclun salad of greens with a light vinaigrette and you won’t feel quite as guilty…  and to drink? I like a nice citrusy chardonnay or a young red pinot noir with this.

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Filed under Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy

Fabulous Meatloaf with Italian Cheese & Mushrooms

What, you say?  “Fabulous” and “Meatloaf” seemingly don’t belong in the same title.  Once you try this, you’ll change your mind.  It’s EASY, but actually on my list of company-worthy – one I intend to serve to French guests that are expected in July. It’s a wonderful blend of  U.S. meets Euro.  My camera failed me on this one, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was nice to look at, too.  Not counting the 45 minute cooking time – thrown together in a few minutes.

The original recipe was this:  Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms .  Martha’s people, as usual, rocking my culinary interests.  But for me, I needed to make it a bit more kid-friendly, and the ingredients a little more budget-friendly and mainstream. The result was even better!

Gather This:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 pound white button or cremini mushrooms, chopped fine so the kiddos don’t recognize it
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 2 small leeks, white and light-green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, washed, dried
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, such as mozzarella, provolone, romano, parmesan, asiago)
    • 1 slice day-old bread, crumbled into coarse crumbs (no canister crumbs here!)
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
    • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat, I use a combination of pork and beef.  If you use turkey, make sure it’s the higher fat ground turkey to get the best flavor and proper texture.

    Do This:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.
    2. Return skillet to medium-low and add another tablespoon oil.  Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with mushrooms and let cool.
    3. Add cheese, bread, egg, and sage to bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in ground meats, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a ceramic or glass casserole (I use one that’s about 8×11), use your hands to form the mixture into a 10-inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, about 45-50 minutes. Let rest , loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes before serving. Drain off any fat and slice in 1/2 inch portions.

    Serve this the traditional way – with green beans and mashers, but when company comes (and yes! I definitely serve this meatloaf to company) I kick up the green beans and do French haricots (tiny whole green beans) and toss them with butter, lemon zest, pine nuts, and lots of salt and pepper – and then I drizzle the mashed potatoes with a little truffle oil.   You won’t need gravy, because the meatloaf is so flavorful and moist.  But if you must do anything, use just a light red-wine based juice deglaze type sauce – a heavy beef gravy would just destroy it.  You could possibly use a very light tomato sauce because it would be in keeping with the Italian influence of the dish.  But unless your guests are under 10, NO KETCHUP ALLOWED!

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    Filed under Budget Friendly, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites, Quick & Easy