Friday, December 12, 2014

Honey-Cinnamon Roasted Carrots

Here I started with my basic recipe for Roasted Carrots and added a light glaze of honey and cinnamon, which gives the dish a festive flair without being too sweet.

RECIPE:

1 pound medium-to-large carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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, 1 tablespoon of the honey, the cinnamon, and salt and pepper.

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

Drizzle the carrots with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey, along with additional salt and pepper as needed, and toss well to coat the carrots evenly.

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

-- 2-3 servings

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tarragon Wine-Glazed Mushrooms

Here I started with my recipe for Wine-Glazed Mushrooms but substituted tarragon for the thyme, giving the dish a sexy French accent. It's a delicious variation.

RECIPE:

1 pound white or brown (crimini) mushrooms, or a combination
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley), divided
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add the shallot, and saute for 1-2 minutes, until soft and fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the mushrooms are lightly golden, approximately 6-8 minutes.

Add the white wine, along with 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley, the tarragon, and additional salt and pepper as needed. Raise heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the wine has evaporated.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of parsley. Saute for another minute or two, to blend all the flavors.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

For this recipe, I started with my basic recipe for Roasted Potatoes and Onions and added some fresh rosemary in place of the parsley, to give the dish a deeper and more earthy accent.

This is one of my favorite side dishes for fall and winter - or anytime!

RECIPE:

1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
1 small or medium yellow onion, cut vertically into 6 or 8 wedges, depending on size
1 scant tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves, to taste*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the potato cubes with the olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Arrange the potato mixture 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 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden.

-- 2-3 servings

* Note: Use a level teaspoon of chopped rosemary for a subtle herbal flavor. For a more assertive herbal taste, use a heaping teaspoon, or more as desired.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saffron-Parmesan Risotto

For this risotto, I started with my vegan recipe for Saffron Risotto and added some Parmesan cheese to make it more authentically Italian.

I love both versions. Which do you prefer?

RECIPE:

4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low, and keep the broth at a slow simmer.

In a separate large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the onion, and saute for 4-6 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not let the onion burn.

Add the rice to the onion mixture, and saute for a minute or two, until all the rice is coated.

Add the wine and the saffron to the rice mixture, and saute over medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Add the hot vegetable broth to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly each time until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more.

Repeat until the rice is tender and creamy, but still slightly firm in the middle (al dente). The process will take at least 20-35 minutes. You may not need to add all of the broth, or you may need to add some water or more broth to achieve the desired consistency. The finished risotto should not be runny, but should also not be stiff.

Stir in the Parmesan, along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for another minute or two to blend all the flavors.

Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Lemon

This is my latest variation for roasted Brussels sprouts. Here, garlic lends a deep, earthy flavor, while a splash of fresh lemon juice brightens it up. The combination is delightful.

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
1 lemon, cut into 6-8 wedges

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.

Squeeze one of the lemon wedges over the roasted sprouts.

Serve with the remaining lemon wedges for garnish and sprinkling, as desired.

-- 3-4 servings

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Prunes Stuffed with Almonds

Prunes are dried plums, and fruits and nuts are a great combination.

In this recipe, I stuff each pitted prune with a whole roasted almond. The tender, sweet prune and the crisp almond combine in a delightful contrast of flavors and textures, especially if you pop the whole thing in your mouth at once.

This recipe does not list quantities, so you can make as many or as few as you need for any occasion. Just use one whole almond for each pitted prune.

RECIPE:

Pitted prunes (dried plums)
Roasted whole almonds

Cut each prune lengthwise along one side to "butterfly ".

Stuff each prune with a whole almond, and then lightly press to partially close the prune.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ingredient Tip: Hydroponic Basil

Basil is one of my favorite herbs, and I love to use it throughout the year.

Fortunately, I can find it at my local supermarket whenever I need it, even when it's not in season.

I like to buy the hydroponic variety, which comes in medium-size bunches. Take it home and transfer it to a vase or large drinking glass with enough water to cover the roots, and it will keep for several days.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

White Bean Hummus

This recipe is a nice change of pace from the classic hummus made from chickpeas.

Canned cannellini beans typically contain more moisture than canned chickpeas, so less liquid is added to the hummus. Less olive oil makes this version naturally low in fat.

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

RECIPE:

1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, drained
1 small clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until fairly smooth. If too thick, add a bit more olive oil, one teaspoon at a time.

Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 8 appetizer servings

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Penne with Broccoli and Capers

This recipe was inspired by a dish I enjoyed when I was in Italy many years ago.

The family who served me this meal had taken me earlier that day to a gorgeous beach on the banks of the deep-blue Mediterranean Sea. It was a day that I will never forget - especially since I prepare this dish often, and relive that experience in my mind each time.

RECIPE:

8 ounces penne pasta
2 cups bite-size fresh broccoli florets (approx. 8 ounces)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brine-packed capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes (optional; more or less to taste)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Blanch the broccoli by boiling for one minute (or microwaving for 1 or 2 minutes with 2 tablespoons of water) until crisp-tender. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking, and drain.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, just until the aroma starts to emerge. Do not let the garlic get brown.

Add the capers to the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes, if using. Saute for about 30 seconds.

Add the broccoli to the skillet, and saute for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained pasta, along with salt and pepper to taste. (Go easy on the salt, as the capers are somewhat salty.)

Saute over medium heat for 3-4 minutes to blend all the flavors.

-- Serves 3-4

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola, Dried Cherries, and Pine Nuts

I created this salad from some random ingredients that I had on hand, and the combination was delicious.

Serve it as a light lunch with some crusty bread, or as a side dish or first course for dinner.

RECIPE:

1 to 2 tablespoons pine nuts, to taste
4 to 6 ounces (4 to 6 cups) mixed salad greens (e.g., spring mix, mesclun, field greens, or your favorite mixture)
4 to 6 tablespoons Honey-Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette (or your favorite prepared balsamic vinaigrette)
1/3 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons dried cherries

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.

Place the mixed salad greens in a large bowl. Add the dressing to the salad greens, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the greens with the dressing.

Add the gorgonzola, dried cherries, and toasted pine nuts to the salad. Toss lightly, and serve.

-- 2-4 servings

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Polenta with Stewed Peppers, Tomatoes, and Green Beans

For this dish, I started with my beloved recipe for Polenta with Stewed Peppers, Tomatoes, and Chickpeas and substituted fresh green beans in place of the chickpeas. It turned out to be a delicious variation.

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

RECIPE:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 small 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
8 ounces fresh green beans, ends trimmed, and beans cut into 1-inch pieces (or slightly longer as desired)
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 the 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, green beans, 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 45 minutes, or longer as needed, until the green beans are tender.

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 1 tablespoon of the 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 vegetable mixture.

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

-- 4 servings (2 polenta slices per serving)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese (12-inch)

This recipe was inspired by a pizza I enjoyed recently at a gourmet bistro. My own version is every bit as delicious as the restaurant's pizza.

RECIPE:

1 Basic All-Purpose Pizza Crust (12-inch) or Thin Pizza Crust (12-inch) (or your favorite 12-inch pizza crust)
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces brown (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, thinly sliced
3-4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground 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.

Spread the pesto evenly over the pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute for 4-6 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Set aside.

Arrange the Roma tomato slices on the pizza in a single layer, and then top with the sauteed mushrooms and the goat cheese.

Top the pizza 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, August 30, 2014

Potato Salad with Pimiento-Stuffed Green Olives

Olive lovers will enjoy this healthy, mayonnaise-free potato salad.

I started with my grandmother's classic Potato Salad with Olive Oil and Parsley and added some sliced pimento-stuffed green olives that I had on hand. The result was delicious.

Use 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of sliced olives, to taste - or even more, if you like.

RECIPE:

1 pound medium-size red potatoes or other waxy potatoes, peeled
1/4 to 1/3 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes, uncovered, in enough salted water to cover until tender (approx. 15-35 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes).

Rinse the cooked potatoes in cold water to stop the cooking process, and let sit until cool.

Once the potatoes have cooled, cut them into 1-inch cubes.

Gently toss the potato cubes with the olives, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

-- 3-4 servings

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hummus with Cumin

At a Philadelphia area restaurant recently, a friend and I enjoyed some hummus that was generously seasoned with cumin. This is my own version, which tastes very much like the restaurant's recipe.

RECIPE:

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, reserving the chickpea liquid
1 clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt

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 of the chickpea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 8 appetizer servings

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spinach Salad with Cannellini, Roasted Peppers, and Pine Nuts

This recipe was born when I had some leftover spinach, cannellini beans, and roasted peppers that I needed to use up. I combined them into a salad, and added some toasted pine nuts for crunch. The result was delicious, colorful, and healthy!

Serve it as a side dish, or add some crusty bread and maybe some soup for a light and satisfying lunch or dinner.

RECIPE:

1 tablespoon pine nuts
6-8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
2/3 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, cut into julienne slices
3 to 6 tablespoons Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette (or your favorite prepared balsamic vinaigrette)

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.

Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette to the spinach, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the greens with the dressing.

Top the spinach with the cannellini, roasted peppers, and toasted pine nuts. Toss lightly, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scrambled Egg Breakfast Pitas with Zucchini, Peppers, and Feta

For this dish, I started with my recipe for Scrambled Egg Breakfast Pitas with Zucchini and Peppers and added some feta cheese for an extra flavor dimension. Yum!

They're great any time of day - for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light dinner.

RECIPE:

6 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small zucchini (approx. 6 ounces), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices, and slices cut crosswise into thirds
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
2 large (6- or 7-inch) pitas (preferably whole wheat)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, and milk, along with salt and pepper to taste. 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 over medium heat, stirring frequently, until eggs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, cut the pitas in half crosswise, and toast them lightly in a dry skillet or grill pan over medium to medium-low heat.

Fill the toasted pitas evenly with the egg mixture. Top evenly with the feta, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Polenta with Spinach and Pine Nuts

For this dish, I started with my recipe for Polenta with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts and simply left out the raisins, since several of my friends dislike those sweet, chewy morsels.

This variation is just as good.

RECIPE:

1 tube of prepared polenta (plain)
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound fresh baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the polenta into 8 slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the 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. Keep warm until ready to use.

Meanwhile, rinse the spinach, but do not dry. The water clinging to the spinach will help to steam it during the cooking process.

In a separate large skillet, saute the spinach over medium-high heat just until wilted. Transfer the wilted spinach to a colander and set aside.

Wipe any spinach liquid from the skillet, and then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two until golden and fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. When the garlic is golden, remove it from the pan and discard.

Add the pine nuts to the garlic-infused oil in the skillet, and saute over medium heat for a few minutes until the pine nuts are lightly golden.

Return the spinach to the skillet, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Saute over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes to reheat the spinach and blend all the flavors.

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

-- 4 servings (2 polenta slices per serving)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Romaine-Radicchio Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

This salad is fairly simple, but it's loaded with flavor and nutrition. Bags of romaine-radiccho blend are available in most supermarkets these days, so you don't even have to start from scratch!

Serve it as a salad course or a side dish, or pair it with some hearty bread for a light but satisfying lunch.

RECIPE:

4 to 6 ounces mixed romaine lettuce and radicchio, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
1 medium-size tomato, diced (optional)
3 to 4 tablespoons Simple Sherry Vinaigrette (or your favorite prepared sherry vinaigrette)

Place the romaine and radicchio in a large bowl. Top with the diced tomatoes, if using.

Add the sherry vinaigrette, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the greens with the dressing.

-- 2-4 servings

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tzatziki Veggie Burger

In this recipe, my homemade Tzatziki adds a delicious Mediterranean twist to a basic veggie burger.

This recipe works best using hamburger-style veggie burgers, such as Morningstar Farms Grillers or Boca Original Vegan.

RECIPE:

1 veggie burger, hamburger-style
1 hearty round sandwich roll, preferably whole grain
1 large, thin slice of tomato
1 sandwich-size portion of leaf lettuce
1 heaping tablespoon Tzatziki, or more as desired

Cook the veggie burger according to the package directions.

Preheat broiler. Split the roll, and lay it open - cut side up - on a broiler-proof pan. Broil until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

Place the cooked veggie burger on the toasted roll. Top with the tomato slice, lettuce, and tzatziki.

-- 1 serving

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Honey-Dijon Spinach Salad with Veggie Bacon

Vegetarian "bacon" is available in most large supermarkets in the U.S., usually refrigerated or frozen.

I discovered that it's a great way to top a salad of baby spinach leaves tossed with my homemade Honey-Dijon Dressing.

RECIPE:

3 or 4 strips vegetarian "bacon"
4 to 6 ounces (4 to 6 cups) fresh baby spinach
4 to 6 tablespoons Honey-Dijon Dressing

Cook the "bacon" according to package directions. Crumble and set aside.

Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the dressing to the spinach, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the spinach with the dressing.

Transfer the dressed spinach to individual serving dishes. Sprinkle the "bacon" evenly atop each salad.

Serve immediately.

-- 2-4 servings

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cheese Ravioli with Spinach, Garlic, and Olive Oil

My Italian grandmother regularly served this dish, but she made her own fresh ravioli from scratch.

Here I substitute purchased ravioli, to make preparation much easier. The result is just as delicious.

RECIPE:

7 to 9 ounces frozen or refrigerated cheese ravioli
6 to 8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
Dash of dried crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Remove the longer stems from the spinach, and tear larger leaves in half.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes (if using), and saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until the aroma starts to emerge. 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.

Add the drained ravioli to the spinach mixture. Toss gently, and serve.

-- 2 servings

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Arugula Salad with Black Olives and Pine Nuts

For this recipe, I started with my Lemon-Balsamic Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts and added some sliced black olives for an extra flavor dimension. It was delicious!

RECIPE:

2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 to 6 ounces fresh baby arugula
3 to 4 tablespoons Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette (or your favorite prepared balsamic vinaigrette)
1/4 cup roasted sliced black olives

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.

Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette to the arugula, tossing well. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat all of the greens with the dressing.

Top the arugula with the olives and toasted pine nuts. Toss lightly, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Potato Salad with Peas

My Italian grandmother never used mayonnaise in her potato salads. She always used good olive oil instead.

In this version, I added some green peas to her basic potato salad recipe. It's a delicious and healthy side dish for spring, summer, or anytime!

RECIPE:

1 pound medium-size red potatoes, unpeeled
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes, uncovered, in enough salted water to cover until tender (approx. 15-35 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes).

Rinse the cooked potatoes in cold water to stop the cooking process, and let sit until cool.

Once the potatoes have cooled, cut them into 1-inch cubes.

Gently toss the potato cubes with the peas, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

-- 3-4 servings

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Grand Marnier French Toast

This recipe was inspired by my friend Shirley, who suggested adding Grand Marnier orange-flavored liqueur to the custard mixture when making French Toast. So here is my version, which turned out great!

I like it with maple syrup; however, like most French Toast recipes, the topping possibilities are virtually unlimited.

RECIPE:

4 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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, Grand Marnier, sugar, 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)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Minted Peas

My Italian grandmother used to dress up a simple side dish of peas by added fresh mint from the family garden.

This is my version of that tasty vegetable dish, which I enhanced with some lightly sauteed shallot.

RECIPE:

2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the peas according to the package directions until just tender. Do not overcook. Drain the peas and set aside.

In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, and saute for a minute or two, until soft but not brown. Add the peas and the mint, along with salt and pepper to taste. Saute for a minute or two to blend all the flavors.

-- 4 servings

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.