Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Asparagus and Hard-Boiled Eggs with Hollandaise Sauce

Asparagus is great with Hollandaise sauce. So are eggs (as in Eggs Benedict). Combined here, they make a fantastic brunch, lunch, or light supper entree.

RECIPE:

1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs, sliced
1 recipe Hollandaise Sauce
Paprika for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. (If you hold the asparagus spear at each end and bend it slightly, it will break at the right spot.) If using thicker spears, trim off the larger buds near the bottom of the stalk as desired.

Line up the asparagus spears in a single layer in a baking dish or pan.

Drizzle the asparagus lightly with the olive oil, turn to coat, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast for about 5-12 minutes, until the asparagus are tender when pierced with a fork, but still firm. The roasting time will depend on the thickness of the asparagus spears. For very thin asparagus, start checking them after about 4 minutes.

Divide the roasted asparagus spears evenly onto 4 individual serving plates. Top each portion with one sliced egg. Top with the Hollandaise sauce, sprinkle lightly with paprika, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Grapefruit Mimosa

For this variation on a classic Mimosa, I simply substituted grapefruit juice in place of the orange juice. It was a lovely change of pace.

RECIPE:

Grapefruit juice (white, pink, or ruby red), chilled*
Champagne or sparkling white wine, chilled

Pour the grapefruit juice into a champagne flute until it is 1/2 full.

Top with the champagne until full.

-- 1 serving

*Note: Use unsweetened grapefruit juice for a tart, natural flavor. For a sweeter and smoother mimosa, use sweetened juice or grapefruit juice cocktail.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Artichoke Omelette with Black Olives and Provolone

This recipe was inspired when my friend Sandi told me about an artichoke omelette with provolone that was very popular in a restaurant that her husband once owned.

Here, I created my own version, to which I added black olives for an extra flavor dimension. The result was delicious!

RECIPE:

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 or 2 whole canned artichoke hearts (depending on how much you like artichokes), rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pitted sliced black olives
3 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
1 tablespoon milk
Dash of salt (optional)
1 thin slice provolone cheese, at room temperature, torn into 6 or 8 pieces

Heat 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add the artichokes and olives, and saute for 3-4 minutes, until they are heated through. Keep warm until ready to use.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk. Whisk in the dash of salt, if using. (Note: Go easy on the salt, as the artichokes and olives can be salty.)

In a separate 7- or 8-inch skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the egg mixture, and tilt the pan quickly to distribute the eggs evenly over the bottom of the skillet.

Using a flexible spatula, lift the edges of the omelette so that the uncooked egg can flow underneath. Continue until the eggs are set. To set the eggs more quickly once they are firm on the bottom, you can optionally flip the omelette by setting a dish over the skillet, turning it over quickly, and then sliding the omelette, cooked side up, back into the skillet.

Once the eggs have set, arrange the provolone pieces over one half of the omelette. Top with the artichoke-olive mixture. Fold the other half of the omelette over the fillings. Heat over low to medium-low heat for a minute or two to allow the cheese to melt, and then serve immediately.

-- 1 or 2 servings

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Roasted Carrots

This is my favorite way to prepare carrots as a side dish. It's simple, yet delicious - and so healthy!

RECIPE:

1 pound medium-to-large carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the carrots in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Cut the thicker pieces in half again lengthwise, so that all the pieces will be similar in size.

In a large bowl, toss the carrot pieces with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Arrange the coated carrots in a single layer in a deep baking dish or roasting pan. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir.

Return to oven and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another 10-20 minutes, or longer as needed, until the carrots are tender.

Sprinkle with the parsley (if using), and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Honey-Dijon Dressing

This easy dressing is slightly sweet and slightly tangy. It's great on sandwiches as well as salads.

RECIPE:

6 tablespoons light or extra light olive oil*
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shaking method: Combine all ingredients in a jar or cruet with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended.
-or-
Whisking method: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until well blended.

Use immediately or refrigerate. If using later, shake or whisk again just before using.

-- Approximately 2/3 cup of dressing

* You can use extra virgin olive oil if you want a strong olive taste. However, I prefer to use light or extra light olive oil in this recipe to let the honey and Dijon flavors shine through more assertively.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Eggs Baked in Muffin Tins

I always mess up poached eggs. They break up in the boiling water, no matter how careful I am. So I learned to bake my eggs instead, and I use these baked eggs as a substitute for poached eggs in many breakfast and brunch recipes. They always turn out perfect.

This is also a great way to cook eggs for a crowd.

I did not include quantities, as the recipe is so simple, and so easy to adapt to make as many, or as few, of these eggs as you need for a given meal.

The cooking time will vary, depending on whether you want the yolks soft or more firm.

RECIPE:

Butter, cooking oil, or non-stick spray
Large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using the butter, oil, or cooking spray, lightly grease the muffin tins - one muffin cup per egg.

Carefully break one egg into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or longer as needed, until the yolks are cooked to your liking.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Black Olives, and Feta

This simple but yummy recipe came about when I had some crumbled feta cheese and some sun-dried tomatoes on hand that I needed to use up. I tossed them with some pasta and black olives, and the result was pure Mediterranean-style deliciousness.

RECIPE:

8 ounces dried penne pasta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and julienned
3 tablespoons black olives, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (approx. 3-4 ounces), at room temperature*

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives, and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the pasta to the skillet, along with the parsley. Saute for 2-3 minutes to blend the flavors.

Add the feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, as the feta is very salty.)

Toss lightly, until the feta is warm but not completely melted. If the mixture seems too dry, add more olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed.

-- Serves 3-4

* Note: Take the feta out of the refrigerator when you start to heat the water for the pasta. It should be close enough to room temperature by the time you’re ready for it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wine-Glazed Mushrooms

A splash of wine and a few other simple ingredients turn a pile of mushrooms into a delicious and elegant vegetable dish. It's healthy and low-calorie, too!

I like to use a combination of white and brown mushrooms. However, you can use all of one kind or the other, as you prefer.

RECIPE:

1 pound white or brown (crimini) mushrooms, or a combination
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
Generous pinch of dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley), divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean the mushrooms. Cut larger mushrooms into quarters and cut smaller mushrooms in half. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute for 1-2 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Do not let the shallot or garlic burn.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet, along with the thyme, 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the mushrooms are lightly golden, approximately 6-8 minutes.

Add the white wine, along with additional salt and pepper as needed. Raise heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the wine has evaporated.

Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fettuccine and Walnuts with Creamy Gorgonzola Wine Sauce

Since I try to eat healthy most of the time, I don't often make recipes with cream sauces. However, I will indulge on special occasions - like Valentine's Day - as I believe that moderation is better than total deprivation. And when I occasionally indulge, this is one of my favorite recipes to serve.

Add a green salad or a green vegetable to balance it out.

RECIPE:

8 ounces dried fettuccine
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup(s) heavy whipping cream
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (approx. 4-6 ounces), divided
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dry white wine (plus additional as needed)
Pinch of dried chives (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)

Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until the walnuts are lightly toasted. (The walnuts can turn too brown very quickly, so watch them carefully.) Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the cream over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Add 1/2 cup of the gorgonzola cheese, the Parmesan, and the wine, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until the gorgonzola is melted.

Add the fettuccine to the cream mixture, along with the remaining 1/2 cup of gorgonzola, the wine, the toasted walnuts, the chives (if using), and salt and pepper to taste. (Go easy on the salt, as the cheese is quite salty.) Toss lightly over medium to medium-low heat for a 2-3 minutes to combine all the flavors. If the sauce seems too thick, add more white wine, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.

Toss in the parsley, and serve immediately.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Moroccan-Style Split Pea Soup

For this recipe, I started with a basic split pea soup and added a Moroccan-style spice combination to give it a subtly exotic flair.

RECIPE:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth
1 cup dried split peas, picked over, rinsed, and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.

Add the vegetable broth, split peas, coriander, cumin, paprika, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, or longer as needed, stirring occasionally, until the split peas have broken down and the vegetables are tender.

Uncover. Raise heat to medium or medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 more minutes, or as needed, to reduce the liquid as desired to a thick soup consistency.

Remove and discard the bay leaf before serving. Garnish each portion with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, as desired.

-- 2-3 servings

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Hummus

For this recipe, I started with our Artichoke Hummus recipe and substituted roasted garlic in place of the fresh garlic. The result is delicious!

Serve with Pan-Grilled Pita Wedges, pita chips, and/or fresh veggies for dipping.

RECIPE:

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, reserving the chickpea liquid
1 (14.5 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
2 or 3 cloves roasted garlic, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor, including 2 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid. Puree until fairly smooth. If too thick, add more chickpea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 8 appetizer servings

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Eggs in Purgatory

When I was growing up, my Italian grandmother would frequently serve me these eggs cooked in marinara sauce, and it was one of my favorite ways to use up leftover sauce. I was also amused by the name.

This recipe is great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. Serve it with our Garlic Toast or plain, hearty bread to soak up all the saucy goodness.

RECIPE:

2 cups Classic Marinara Sauce or your favorite plain red pasta sauce
4 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large skillet, simmer the marinara sauce over medium heat until well heated.

Gently and carefully crack the eggs into the skillet, spacing them evenly, with plenty of sauce on all sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to the desired stage.

Sprinkle with the parsley and/or cheese, if using.

-- 2 servings

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Garlic Toast

Most garlic bread that I encounter here in the U.S. is loaded with lots of butter and often granulated garlic powder. According to my Italian grandmother, that stuff is not authentic.

Here is her version of garlic bread. It's simpler, much healthier, and very tasty.

RECIPE:

4 slices hearty Italian bread, cut in half if very large
1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 large cloves garlic, halved

Preheat broiler. Place bread slices in single layer on baking sheet. Toast under broiler until golden on one side.

Turn the bread slices over, and brush the untoasted sides lightly with the olive oil.

Broil until the oiled side of the bread is crisp and golden. The inside of the bread should still be somewhat tender.

Remove from broiler, and then rub the oiled sides of the bread with the cut sides of the garlic cloves. Use 1/2 garlic clove for each bread slice.

Discard the garlic cloves (or use as a garnish), and serve the toast immediately.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Goat Cheese Pizza with Carmelized Onions (12-inch)

For this recipe, I started with the basics for some of my previously shared goat cheese pizza recipes, but kept this version simple, with just caramelized onions, mozzarella, and a dusting of fresh parsley at the end.

It's every bit as satisfying as the more complicated versions. There's nothing missing here!

RECIPE:

1 Basic All-Purpose Pizza Crust (12-inch) or Thin Pizza Crust (12-inch) (or your favorite 12-inch pizza crust)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced into 1/2 rings
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the pizza crust and press into a 12-inch pizza pan, or form it into a 12-inch round on a baking sheet, with the edges slightly thicker to contain the toppings.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, and saute the onion for 2 or 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Turn the heat down to low, add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to caramelize. Do not let the garlic get brown.

Spread the onion-garlic mixture evenly over the pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella and the grated Parmesan. Sprinkle evenly with the goat cheese. Top it off with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, until golden.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with the parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing

-- 3-4 servings

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pear Bellini

A traditional Bellini is made with peach nectar and champagne or sparkling white wine.

Here, I substituted pear nectar, which I found next to the peach nectar in the Latin section of my supermarket. The result was just as delicious as the original - or maybe more so!

It's great for brunch or cocktail hour.

RECIPE:

Pear nectar, chilled
Champagne or sparkling white wine, chilled
Pear slice for garnish (optional)

Pour the pear nectar into a champagne flute until it is 1/2 full.

Top with the champagne until full.

Garnish with pear slice, if desired.

-- 1 serving

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Vanilla-Cinnamon French Toast

This version of French Toast, featuring the comforting flavors of vanilla and cinnamon, will appeal to folks of all ages.

It's a delicous way to use up and revitalize day-old (or older) bread that is starting to go stale.

RECIPE:

4 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6-8 slices bread
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Powdered sugar, syrup, fruit, and/or other toppings, as desired

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, and then whisk in the milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.

Add the bread slices to the bowl, toss so that each slice is covered with the custard mixture, and let it sit for several minutes so the bread can absorb the custard.

Heat the oil on a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Place the coated bread slices on the griddle and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides.

Top with powdered sugar, syrup, fruit, and/or other toppings, as desired.

-- 3-4 servings (2 slices per serving)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

Here I started with my basic recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts and added some sliced garlic. The result was quite good, with a subtle hint of toasted garlic.

RECIPE:

12 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts
1 (medium to large) clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the Brussels sprouts, trim the ends, and remove any of the outermost leaves that are yellow or discolored. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise.

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients, and let sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Pour the Brussels sprout mixture into a baking dish or roasting pan, and arrange the sprouts in a single layer.

Cover with foil and roast for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the foil.

Stir the sprouts.

Return the sprouts to the oven and continue roasting, uncovered, for another 10-20 minutes, or longer as needed, stirring once or twice, until the sprouts are nicely golden on the outside and tender inside.

-- 3-4 servings

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms and Peppers in Puff Pastry Shells

This gourmet egg dish is elegant and impressive, yet so easy to make.

Serve it with fresh fruit for a light breakfast, or pair it with a green salad, Roasted Potatoes and Onions, or other side veggies for a hearty brunch, lunch, or supper.

RECIPE:

6 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
2 tablespoons milk
Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian herb mixture
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms
1/2 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into julienne slices, and slices cut crosswise into thirds
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 frozen puff pastry shells (1 10-ounce package)

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, Italian herbs, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and peppers, along with additional salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the vegetables are cooked through.

Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until eggs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, bake the puff pastry shells according to the package directions.

Fill the puff pastry shells with the egg mixture, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

-- 3 servings

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

This whole roasted cauliflower is an impressive addition to a holiday dinner or any occasion.

Golden on the outside, tender and moist on the inside, with a fresh lemon complement, this just might convert some people who think they don't cauliflower.

RECIPE:

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Parsley for garnish
Lemon wedges for garnish and sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the green leaves and the core from the cauliflower, leaving the head intact.

Rub the cauliflower evenly with the olive oil, and then sprinkle lightly with salt.

Place the cauliflower, core side down, in a deep baking dish or roasting pan.

Roast for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or longer as needed, until the cauliflower is tender. (It can take up to 2 hours, or perhaps longer, depending on the size of the cauliflower, how soft you want it, and how well your oven is calibrated.) If the cauliflower starts to get too dark, cover it with foil to reduce further browning.

Transfer the cauliflower to a serving platter. Garnish with the parsley and the lemon wedges.

The lemon can be squeezed over the cauliflower to add extra flavor, as desired.

-- 4-6 servings

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions

Roasting is my favorite way to prepare most vegetables. It gives them a rich yet mellow flavor.

These simple roasted root vegetables are healthy, delicious, and easy to make.

RECIPE:

1 to 1 1/2 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
2 or 3 medium-to-large carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut vertically into 6 or 8 wedges, depending on size
1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the potato cubes, carrot pieces, and onion wedges with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Use only enough olive oil to lightly coat all of the vegetables.

Arrange the coated vegetables in a single layer in a deep baking dish or roasting pan.

Cover with foil, and roast for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir.

Return to oven and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another 30-45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and golden.

Sprinkle with the parsley (if using), and serve.

-- 3-6 servings

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Simple Sherry Vinaigrette

Sherry wine vinegar gives this simple vinaigrette a rich, nutty taste.

It's great in a green salad, potato salad, or pasta salad.

RECIPE:

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shaking method: Combine all ingredients in a jar or cruet with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended.
-or-
Whisking method: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until well blended.

Use immediately or refrigerate. If using later, shake or whisk again just before using.

-- Approximately 1/2 cup of dressing

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Spaghetti with Red Bell Pepper, Pine Nuts, and Feta

Bell pepper, pine nuts, and feta are a delightful Mediterranean flavor combination.

Here I combine them with spaghetti for a healthy yet satisfying dish.

RECIPE:

2 tablespoons pine nuts
8 ounces dried spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne slices
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (approx. 3-4 ounces), at room temperature*
3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low to medium-low heat for few minutes until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two until fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn.

Add the spaghetti. Toss to combine.

Add the feta, parsley, and toasted pine nuts, along with salt and pepper to taste. (Go easy on the salt, as the feta is rather salty.)

Toss lightly, until the feta is warm but not completely melted.

-- 3-4 servings

* Note: Take the feta out of the refrigerator when you start to heat the water for the pasta. It should be close enough to room temperature by the time you’re ready for it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tzatziki

Tzatziki, a classic Greek condiment, is great as a dip for veggies, Pan-Grilled Pita Wedges, or pita chips. It's also great on sandwiches and veggie burgers.

This version originated when my friend Sandi kindly shared her Greek-American sister-in-law's tzatziki recipe with me. As usual, I modified the original recipe to suit my own style and taste.

Be sure to use Greek-style (strained) yogurt; otherwise, your tzatziki will be too watery.

Huge thanks to Sandi and her generous sister-in-law for the inspiration and for providing a very good starting point.

RECIPE:

2 cups plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or 2/3 of a medium cucumber)
1 small clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow all the flavors to meld.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

-- 8 servings

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Polenta with Stewed Peppers, Tomatoes, and Chickpeas

My Italian grandmother used to top polenta with stewed meats. I like to replace the meat with vegetables and beans.

Add a green salad and perhaps some crusty bread for a healthy and satisfying meal.

RECIPE:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably petite-cut), undrained
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 tube of prepared polenta (plain)

In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until soft.

Add the garlic and paprika, and saute for another minute or two. Do not let the garlic burn.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to high, and bring almost to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for another 15-20 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Meanwhile, cut the polenta into 8 slices. Heat the remaining1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Add the polenta slices, and cook, turning once, until heated through and lightly browned on both sides.

To serve, arrange polenta slices on serving plate(s). Top with the chickpea mixture.

Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley, and serve.

-- 4 servings (2 polenta slices per serving)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tomato, Spinach, and Feta Pizza (12-inch)

The idea for this recipe came from a friend who told me about a pizza that her Greek-American husband had made for her. His pizza was topped with tomatoes and feta.

In my version, below, I also added some spinach and mozzarella. The combination is delicous!

RECIPE:

1 Basic All-Purpose Pizza Crust (12-inch) or Thin Pizza Crust (12-inch) (or your favorite 12-inch pizza crust)
6 to 8 ounces fresh spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the pizza crust and press into a 12-inch pizza pan, or form it into a 12-inch round on a baking sheet, with the edges slightly thicker to contain the toppings.

Remove the tough stems from the spinach and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic, and saute for a minute or two, just until fragrant. Do not let the garlic get brown. Add the spinach, along with salt and pepper to taste, and saute over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Drain any excess liquid from the spinach mixture.

Spread 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza crust. Arrange the Roma tomato slices on the pizza in a single layer, and then top with the spinach.

Sprinkle the feta evenly over the pizza, and then top it off with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, until golden.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing

-- 3-4 servings

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bowtie Pasta with Mushroom-Marsala Sauce

Marsala wine is a delicious, gourmet sauce base for this mushroom-pasta dish. Vegans can substitute vegan margarine for the butter.

Serve with a green salad and perhaps some warm, crusty bread for a delightful and well-balanced meal.

RECIPE:

4 ounces bowtie/butterfly pasta (farfalle)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon butter (or vegan margarine for a vegan version)
8 ounces fresh white or crimini (brown) mushrooms, or a mixture, sliced (or more, if desired)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, and saute for a minute or two, until soft.

Add the butter/margarine to the skillet, along with the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through.

Add the Marsala and 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by half.

Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the mushroom-Marsala sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of parsley, and serve.

-- 2 servings

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Veggie Burgers with Mushrooms, Peppers, and Provolone

This is one of my favorite ways to serve purchased veggie burgers.

I like this recipe best using hamburger-style veggie burgers. Mushroom/grain-based burgers work well also.

RECIPE:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh white or crimini (brown) mushrooms, or a mixture, sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 veggie burgers, preferably hamburger-style
4 slices provolone cheese
4 hearty round sandwich rolls, preferably whole grain

In medium to large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and bell pepper, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute for 6-10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Keep warm.

Cook the veggie burgers according to the package directions. Top each veggie burger with a slice of provolone at the end of the cooking cycle, so that the provolone starts to melt but doesn’t get too runny.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Split the rolls, and lay them open - cut side up - on a broiler-proof pan. Broil until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

Place one of the veggie burgers on each roll. Top evenly with the mushrooms and peppers.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Potato, Bell Pepper, and Green Bean Stew

This vegetable stew is hearty and satisfying, yet light and healthy. Paprika adds a Spanish flair.

Serve with some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth.

RECIPE:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound red potatoes, or other waxy potatoes, peeled or unpeeled as desired, cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 ounces fresh green beans, ends trimmed, and beans cut into 1-inch pieces (or slightly longer as desired)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably petite-cut), undrained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish as desired

In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until soft.

Add the garlic and paprika, and saute for another minute or two. Do not let the garlic burn.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add the potatoes, green beans, broth, and diced tomatoes, along with salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to high, and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 60 minutes, or longer as needed, until the potatoes and green beans are tender.

Uncover, and stir in 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes, or longer as needed, to blend all the flavors and reduce the sauce to a nice stew consistency.

Sprinkle with additional parsley, as desired, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eggplant Stuffed with Veggie Sausage Parmesan

In this variation of Eggplant Parmesan, eggplant halves are stuffed with a vegetarian sausage mixture, and then topped with sauce and cheese and baked.

It makes for a satisfying entree, especially with a green salad on the side. Or cut it into smaller pieces and serve as an appetizer or snack.

RECIPE:

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 links (2 individual-size portions) Italian-style vegetarian sausage, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian-seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 1/2 cups Classic Marinara Sauce or your favorite plain red pasta sauce, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise.

Using a tablespoon or soup spoon, scoop out the flesh of each eggplant half, leaving enough around the sides and bottom to form a sturdy shell.

Coarsely chop the eggplant meat and set aside.

Brush the eggplant shells with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, place them cut side up in a in a deep oven-proof baking dish or pan, and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Saute the sausage and the chopped eggplant flesh for 3-5 minutes, until they start to turn lightly golden.

Remove the sausage mixture from the heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Stuff the eggplant shells with the sausage mixture.

Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove and discard the foil.

Top the eggplant with the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce, the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes until the eggplant is tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.

If using as an entree, serve 1/2 eggplant half per person. If using as an appetizer or snack, cut each eggplant half crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces.

-- 2 entree servings or 4-6 appetizer/snack servings

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Penne with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Peppers

My Italian grandmother used to make a dish very similar to this using fresh vegetables from her garden. This is my version of that old family classic. It's light and healthy, and yet very tasty and satisfying.

RECIPE:

8 ounces dried penne pasta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and then sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 small to medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes (preferably petite-cut), undrained
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, shredded or coarsely chopped, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add the tomatoes and basil, along with additional salt and pepper as needed. Simmer, uncovered, over medium to medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes to heat the tomatoes and blend all the flavors.

Add the penne to the veggie-tomato mixture, toss lightly, and serve.

-- 3-4 servings