Olive Piccanti

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Olives all by themselves are a treat, but with the addition of a few ingredients, a jar of large pitted olives becomes the star of the party!  This recipe is one I adapted from a tiny recipe book by Frances Mayes: Bella Tuscany, The Sweet Life in Italy. I have Mayes’ larger Tuscan cookbook and have used recipes in several other books she wrote, but this one was a freebie with one of the book purchases. It has lots of “want to try” recipes. This one is certainly a keeper!

Olive Piccanti

2 cups large green olives

2  hot peppers, 1 red, 1 green, minced

1/4 cup onion, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I use Meyer lemons from our tree)

1 thinly sliced lemon

Put all ingredients in a bowl with cover, mix, and refrigerate.  Best after about 24 hours.

 

 

 

Eggplant Involtini

IMG_2845A friend from church recently  brought me some vegetables from his garden which included several lovely Japanese eggplants so I made these rollups.  The time spent in preparation was well worth the finished dish!

Eggplant Involtini

3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing on parchment to line the baking sheet

2 medium Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 28 ounce  can diced tomatoes, with liquid mostly drained and reserved for other use

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

10-12 slices of thin sliced deli ham

10-12 slices whole milk mozzarella (I use the ready sliced logs of mozzarella, not sandwich slices)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the slices of eggplant on the parchment paper, brushing both sides with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once. This will make eggplant slices soft and easy to roll.

While eggplant is in the oven, saute onion for 3 minutes in the remaining olive oil. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add drained tomatoes then saute for 2 or 3 minutes.

When eggplant has baked, remove from oven and lower the oven temperature to 350.  On each eggplant slice, place a slice of ham and a slice of mozzarella. Roll the pieces from the small end forward and secure the bundle with a toothpick.

Put about a cup of the tomato sauce in  the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish, then arrange involtini in dish, seam side down.  Over each bundle, spread some of the tomato mixture, then sprinkle shredded mozzarella over all. Place in oven to warm for 15 minutes before serving.

Baked Antipasto Ring

IMG_1815There are so many recipes that use crescent roll dough as the ingredient which makes the recipe both quick and delicious. This antipasto ring is simple enough to make for supper on a busy night and just right  for an appetizer for guests. Everyone loves antipasto, and you can stuff this pastry with a variety of antipasto ingredients.

Baked Antipasto Ring

2 cans crescent roll dough (I like to use Immaculate Baking Company’s product

1/2  cup well drained roasted red bell peppers, about 4 pieces

8 slices provolone cheese, halved

1/4 pound sliced peppered salami

1/4 pound prosciutto

1/4 pound sliced deli ham

pickled yellow hot pepper rings

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped

optional:  sliced black or kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 8 rectangles. On ungreased 12-inch pizza pan, arrange rectangles in ring so short sides of rectangles form a circle in center. (Dough will overlap and part of the ends will hang over edge of pan. Dough ring should resemble a sun.)

Spread roasted red bell peppers towards center of ring on bottom halves of rectangles. Top with half of the cheese. Layer salami, ham and prosciutto slices over cheese. Arrange pepper rings over top. Sprinkle with olives if desired. Cover with remaining half of cheese.

Bring each dough rectangle hanging over side of pan up over stacked filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around sandwich until entire filling is enclosed. Sprinkle with black peppe and chopped fresh rosemary. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before slicing.

Caprese

IMG_0465One of the simplest summer salads is this most beautiful and flavor filled Italian favorite It is a family favorite, and I can (and have!) eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Insalata caprese (salad of Capri) consists of freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella topped with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  In Italy it is usually served as antipasto rather than as a side salad. The classic recipe has only olive oill, but we enjoy adding a splash of aged balsamic vinegar.  Home grown tomatoes and full fat mozzarella guarantee a satisfying, refreshing plate of goodness.

Caprese

3 large, ripe tomatoes.

3-4 slices mozzarella

fresh basil leaves

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

balsamic vinegar, optional

Slice tomatoes thinly and arrange on large plate. Cut mozzarella into triangles or slice if using ball of mozzarella.  Add to tomatoes and garnish with whole basil leaves.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and add salt and pepper. Pass balsamic vinegar.

 

 

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

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For all my almost 50 years of marriage, I have planned meals and menus, usually a week ahead.  That doesn’t mean we don’t change the menus around or decide to do something different, but I like this method because it allows me to consider what I have in the pantry or freezer, what is currently growing in the garden or available from the CSA vegetable shares we have picked up. I can more efficiently budget and shop, so I think it saves time and money as well.  But this delicious meal happened because I realized that I had far more arugula than we were going to use in salads before it went bad. Arugula is one of those greens that have become so popular but it wasn’t even listed in any receipe in cookbooks from the early years of my menu planning.  It is a peppery green and is delicious raw in a variety of salads, cooked as an accompaniment to fish or pasta, and as it is used here, in pesto.  I liked using walnuts rather than pine nuts  This pesto can be used to drizzle over grilled meats or pasta.

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

16 ounces pizza dough – make your own, or use frozen dough that has been thawed and brought to room temperature

1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, heated in small sauce pan – I used a spicy jarred sauce.

Arugula pesto, recipe below

1 heaping cup shredded mozzarella or Italian 4-cheese blend cheese.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on floured tea towel.  Separate into 4 parts.  Roll each part into a circle and place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread a thick layer of pesto on one half of each circle and top with  3 Tablespoons finely grated mozarella or Italian 4-cheese blend.  Fold  each circle over to make calzone.  Pinch edges together, roll and crimp to seal. Bake about 18 minutes, or until crust is done and nicely browned.

Ladle marinara into small sauce bowls and serve alongside calzones for dipping. If you have extra arugula pesto, freeze and use for pasta or your next pizza!

Serves 4

Arugula Pesto

2 cups packed arugula
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup shaved parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic,peeled and rough chopped
Sear salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
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Process arugula, oil, parmesan, nuts, and
garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season
with salt and pepper.

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Kale with Raisins and Orange Peel

002I used Ruffled Kale for the dish shown in the above photo, but this recipe works equally well with Swiss Chard or collard greens.  These are all nutrient rich foods which we need to include and adding tang and sweetness with oranges and raisins offers a smorgasbord of rich flavor.  Topping with toasted pine nuts adds texture and more temptation for the taste buds!  Other variations include using dried cranberries (think Christmas!)  instead of raisins, and topping with toasted pecans or walnuts.  This dish goes well with roasted chicken or pork tenderloin.

I adapted this recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks in my kitchen:  The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes.  It features photographs by Steven Rothfeld that make you want to cook every recipe in the book!

Kale with Raisins and Orange Peel

1/2 cup raisins

2 Tablespoons orange liqueur (may substitute orange juice)

1 large bunch of kale

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried orange peel.  I use Penzey’s.  You may use instead the peel of  a fresh orange, cut into small strips.

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts.

Soak raisins for 15 minutes in orange liqueur or orange juice.  Wash kale leaves, then cut or strip the tough stem ends.  Slice leaves coarsely.  Heat olive oil and stir in chopped onions.  Cook until onions begin to turn translucent, then add kale and cook, tossing together until leaves are tender and wilted.  Add orange peel, raisins, including liquid, and cook covered for 2 or 3 minutes.  Top with pine nuts and serve.

Serves 4

Braided Pastry with Chicken, Cheddar, and Broccoli

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007I have used cans of crescent roll dough for many recipes, including one that looked like this but was filled apples.  I don’t usually plug brands, but I particularly like Immaculate Baking Company’s baking products because they contain non-GMO ingredients, so this braid is made with Immaculate Crescent Rolls.  It looks difficult, but really isn’t, is quick to prepare and a very creative way to use leftover rotisserie chicken and those leftover bits of broccoli in the crisper!  Why not try it with kale instead of the broccoli, different cheeses, or with all vegetables?   There are many variations of this recipe online.

  • 2 cans Crescent roll dough
  • 2 cups chopped chicken
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets cut in bite size pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten and set aside for brushing the pastry before baking
  • fresh rosemary
  • cracked pepper
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread both cans of crescent rolls  length wise side by side, making a long rectangle. Press each of the seams to form a single layer of dough. In a  bowl, combine chicken, cheese, broccoli and mayonnaise. Spread mixture down the center of the dough as evenly as possible.
Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut horizontal strips 1 inch apart down each side of the crescent dough. Beginning at the top fold the dough strips over the top of the chicken mixture, alternating left and right to create a braided pastry top. Brush the top of the braid with  beaten egg yolk and sprinkle fresh rosemary on top. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Bake for 25– 30 minutes until golden brown. Slice and serve.  This is a meal by itself, but especially nice with a tossed green salad or seasonal fruit.
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Shrimp Mosca

019Sweet Texas Gulf Shrimp are a treat whether you boil, broil, bake, or fry them.  This skillet of spicy shrimp served with rice is just as perfect for a special guest dinner as for a casual family gathering.  I cooked Shrimp Mosca first from a recipe found in one of my Louisiana cookbooks:  Shadows on the Teche.  In New Orleans everyone knows of  Mosca’s restaurant, owned and operated by the Mosca family. Its claim to fame is that it serves  THE BEST ITALIAN  food in the South.  It reminds me of my recipe for Singapore style Chili shrimp because traditionally the shrimp are prepared and served with the shells on, with the messy fun of peeling at the table and having the sauce to dunk your bread in. In this version of Shrimp Mosca, I peel and devein the shrimp before cooking.  The addition of bread crumbs does soak up some of the sauce but gives a delicious crusty topping.

2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 stick of butter,

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper

5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2  teaspoons fresh thyme

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 cup bread crumbs

Set oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and devein shrimp and place in large baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Put all ingredients escept the shrimp and bread crumbs in a pan and simmer on low for about 5 minutes without bringing to a boil.  Pour sauce over shrimp and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve with rice and crusty French bread.

Italian Soup with Sprouted Beans

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Our family loves bean soups – black beans, lentils, red beans, white beans with ham.  A product available in health food stores and Costco combines 3 different beans:  green lentils, mung beans, and adzuki beans.  These have been sprouted and then dehydrated, making them even more nutritious and easy to prepare.  The cooking time is significantly reduced.  This recipe combines them with fresh vegetables and herbs for Italian style soup, hearty and delicious. Add some crusty Foccacia bread made with herbs and olives.  This is a tasty and healthy supper to add to holiday times around the table that feature richer foods.

Italian Soup with Sprouted Beans

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 small ancho peppers, diced (optional)

One 14-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes

3 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 cup TruRoots Sprouted Bean Trio

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and peppers, and saute. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring as you add chicken or vegetable broth, basil, oregano, and bay leaves, bringing to a boil. Add sprouted beans. Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Makes 8 servings

Antipasto Skewers

 

Joe celebrated his 75th birthday last week.  He requested a family dinner and violin music!  He got both.- a wonderful evening of violin music performed by a friend who played all his requests and lasagna with all the trimmings.  These antipasto skewers were part of the appetizers served.  They are so easy to put together, and are perfect for an Italian meal.  Best of all – Maddie and Skye made them with a little help from Jeremy and Jordann!  Happy Birthday, Joe!

Small size bamboo skewers

Cherry or grape tomatoes

small mozzarella balls

fresh basil leaves

olives

Thread a basil leaf onto the skewer, followed by a tomato. Fold the basil leaf over, then add mozzarella ball, ending with an olive.  Quantity depends entirely on how many you wish to serve.  We made about 4 dozen. Hint:  It helps to assemble at the sharp tip of the skewer, sliding each piece further down as you add another.