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.

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