Salsa Verde, Italian Style

This recipe for Italian salsa verde — not to be confused with the spicy Mexican sauce of the same name — comes from the Food section of the Miami Herald.  Salsa Verde is bright with herbs and deeply flavored with olive oil, garlic, capers, lemon, and sometimes anchovies.  It’s full of flavor and packs a ton of nutrition from pathogen fighting herbs.

There’s no long simmering or blending required. You simply whisk the ingredients together until you reach the consistency of a loose pesto.  This sauce is versatile: add it to a salad, use as a dip, top fish or meat after cooking or grilling.

Here are some tips:

• When zesting a lemon, avoid the bitter white pith beneath. The zest brightens the flavor of the sauce. A Microplane zester is an excellent tool for the job.

• Feel free to vary proportions. I tend to use less oil for a thicker consistency when I serve salsa verde alongside roasted meats and grilled vegetables, and more oil with fish or chicken.  Here’s the recipe along with a serving suggestion: wild caught salmon!

Fancy restaurant food is even better when it's easy to make at home!

Fancy restaurant food is even better when it’s easy to make at home!

Crispy Salmon with Salsa Verde

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 salmon fillets (about 2 pounds total), skin removed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 lemon wedges, for garnish

Procedure:

Mix the herbs with the capers, garlic, lemon zest and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat in a large nonstick pan. Cook salmon in a single layer until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn, season with salt and pepper, and cook other side until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir lemon juice into herb mixture. To serve, place a salmon fillet on each plate and top with the sauce. Serve garnished with lemon wedges. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Wine Country Cooking” by Joanne Weir (Time-Life $27.50).

Per serving: 341 calories (68 percent from fat), 25.6 g fat (5 g saturated, 11.2 g monounsaturated), 67 mg cholesterol, 25.4 g protein, 1.4 g carbohydrates, 0.4 g fiber, 203 mg sodium.

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.”

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Lemon Cucumber Greek Salad

Lemon cucumbers and one gherkin cucumber from our garden.

I was lucky enough to travel to Greece with my family when I was a teenager and since then, Greek salad (I think they just call it salad there) has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.  These lemon cucumbers from our garden add a lot of bright color to this crisp summer salad.  The lemon cukes are named for their appearance, inside they look and taste like the cucumbers you are used to.  Their skin is thinner than traditional cucumbers which is why you don’t see them in grocery stores, they need to be eaten or preserved with in about 48 hours of picking them!

Sliced lemon cucumber, slightly green and familiar insides.

Ingredients:

3-4 small-ish cucumbers, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 of a medium white or red onion, chopped

a handful or more Kalamata olives, pitted (canned black olives have their place, and it is not in Greek salad!)

1/2 cup chopped peppers (green, yellow or red)

1/2 cup  chopped fresh tomato or halved grape tomatoes

Feta, goat or sheep’s milk, crumbled to cover the top of your salad

Red wine vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Dried or fresh thyme, oregano and basil (Dana used the lemon basil from our garden which was perfect in this salad!)


Assemble the salad and toss just before serving.

Procedure:

Prep all of your veggies, the amounts are not super important, if you want mostly cucumbers, go for it.  Or use an even amount of each, it’s salad, not rocket science, use what you’ve got, it’ll be good!

Sprinkle equal amounts of the herbs over the top of your mixed veggies.

Add salt and pepper and as many olives as you like.

Drizzle olive oil, you won’t need much, toss to coat and then add half as much vinegar, toss again.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Crumble enough feta cheese to cover the top of your salad.

Mix and serve!

I would suggest that you be generous with your servings of this salad.  Feta cheese is naturally low in calories compared to other cheeses.   Cucumbers are a more nutrient dense form of water and the amount of olive oil needed in this recipe is relatively low.  What I am saying here is that this dish is high in nutrients, large in size and low in calories.

A colorful way to enjoy the fresh veggies of late summer.

Lately I’ve been able to eat as many green vegetables as my heart desires as they are growing freely in our garden.  I’ve been eating huge dinner plates full of collards and kale and lettuces, several times a day.  And they make me feel full.  Why?  They are highly nutritious and thus feeding the cells of my body that which they need to function optimally.  And my stomach is literally full of food.  Food that contains fiber and fat, which will take me a while to digest, thus I am full for hours.  Conclusion: eat more nutrient dense foods more often!

So may times I’ve been asked, how can I eat such a restricted diet?  No one seems to understand: I eat a diet restricted to the foods that make me feel energized, satiated, happy and healthy, most of the time.  Everything in moderation, including moderation. We shouldn’t all eat everything all the time just because it’s available and conveniently wrapped in non recyclable garbage with a far off expiration date on it.  Seriously, have you seen these?!  A healthy diet is one that contains the foods that make you feel your best and limits everything else to the occasional indulgence.  Sure, you have to do some research (aka paying attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel) and then you’ll have to eliminate some foods and add in new foods.  It’s worth the effort.  It’s pretty amazing how far you can go on a “restricted” diet!

Dana’s Frittata with Greens and Chilies

As the weather continues to get colder it’s time to turn up the heat and that includes the food we are eating.  A great way to keep warm during the cold months is to eat foods that warm us up and the following recipe is for a one dish meal that’s served hot and also has a healthy dose of heat from chilies in adobo sauce.  This is my husband’s recipe and our go to, one dish dinner.

Dana’s Frittata with Greens and Chilies

Since this is a one dish meal the amount of the ingredients depends on the size of your skillet.  My cast iron skillet is about 11 inches in diameter, so adjust accordingly. You don’t need to worry about getting the measurements exact.  And, as with most of the recipes I love, there is plenty of room for improvisation and substitution.  This recipe will feed about 3-4 people and can be made in about 30 minutes or less.

The Ingredients: Local and Organic, please!

2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

5-7 large Eggs (I always get my eggs from the farm on Michael’s Road in Hinsdale) lightly beaten with a pinch of salt and 1 Tablespoon of water or milk.

1 bunch of Greens, any kind will do, Kale and Collards are my favorites, ribs removed, finely shredded.

1 medium Onion, chopped or sliced into half moons

2-3 cloves of Garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1-3 Chilies in Adobo (Goya brand) these are HOT so use with caution!  Chop them fine and be sure to include some of the sauce.

1 teaspoon Cumin

1 teaspoon smoked Paprika

1 teaspoon Oregano

½ teaspoon/dash of Lemon juice

Salt to taste

Cheese, optional, for topping

 

Dana adds the chopped kale to the onion mixture.

The Procedure:

Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to your skillet over medium heat.

Sauté the onions until soft with about 1 teaspoon of salt.

Add in the garlic and cumin and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add the green veggies, chilies and paprika and a dash of lemon juice.  Mix well and continue to cook until the greens are wilted.

Add the oregano to your eggs, mix well and pour the egg mixture evenly over everything in the skillet.

Let it cook until the eggs are mostly set.  Top with cheese if you like.

Put the whole thing in the oven under the broiler.  This is why cast iron is so handy!  The top will set and bubble and then brown.  When it’s got a nice toasty top that means it’s done and ready to eat.  Serve straight out of the skillet.  This is a complete meal but you can always serve with whole grain toast and a side of greens.  Also, if you have leftovers this makes an excellent breakfast and you get extra bonus points for having veggies at breakfast!

Just out of the oven and ready to eat!

Easy Italian Style Kale

 

Three different types of Kale, all of them delicious and nutritious!

Three different types of Kale, all of them delicious and nutritious!

 

I wrote the following recipe for my friend Jonathan.  He is thirteen and has taken an interest in eating well and trying out new foods.  He had never eaten kale before but when I told him he could season it to taste like some of his other favorite Italian foods he was willing to try it!  Kale can be grown all year-long in the Berkshires and it can be prepared so many ways.  I have a great Kale Chips recipe on my blog and there are literally hundreds of recipes on the web.  This hearty green makes an excellent addition to any diet.

Easy Italian Style Kale

Makes 2 generous portions in about 20 minutes.

Ingredients: all organic, all the time!

1 bunch kale, any kind will do! Ribs removed and ripped into pieces.

2 cloves garlic, minced or even better, use a garlic press and press directly into the pan when it’s time to add the garlic.

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary

½ medium onion, sliced into half moons

1 Tablespoon capers

5 – 7 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin

1 Teaspoon each fennel and oregano

Sprinkling of hot pepper flakes

Splash of Balsamic

Salt, if necessary, to taste

The Procedure:

In a cast iron skillet heat the oil over medium heat and add the pepper flakes and fennel.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the onion, capers and sun-dried tomatoes.  Cook until the onion is clear and wilted.

Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and then add the kale and the oregano.  Mix well so that the kale cooks evenly.  When the kale is wilted but still has a bit of bright green to it, add a splash or two of balsamic.

Taste, adjust for flavor.  Add more capers or herbs, more hot pepper and garlic or nothing at all!

Remove from heat and eat.

When I want to turn this side dish into a meal I will separately cook up some hot Italian pork sausage from Holiday Farm in Dalton, slice it and add it to the kale just before serving.  French lentils also work really well with this kale dish for a hearty vegan option or in addition to the sausage.

 

Cooked kale, ready to eat!

Cooked kale, ready to eat!

 

Zucchini Pancakes

Here’s my favorite way to eat up all those zucchini’s and save the left overs for a colder zucchini-less winter day!  Dana came up with this recipe and we think it’s ready for prime time so….here ya go!

Oh yeah, as with many of my/our recipes the measuring is approximate and the total carb count is low, though this recipe does call for flour (We used chick pea flour for flavor and because it’s lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber).

Ingredients:

8 Cups shredded zucchini, salted and set in a collander to drain for 15-20 minutes

2 small onions, chopped fine

2-4 cloves of garic, or more if you want! Pressed or chopped fine.

zest of a small lime

a Tablespoon or so of lemon juice

oregano, black pepper and more salt to taste (these three are all optional and delicious)

4 medium sized eggs, beaten

about 1 Cup of flour, chick pea works great, oat flour or whole wheat works too.

The Procedure:

Shred the zucchini, by hand if you want a work out or with your shredder Cuisinart attachment.  Toss the shredded zucchini with salt and let it drain in a colander over a bowl.  I know it’s tempting to skip this step but it is crucial to ending up with yummy pancakes instead of globs of mush.  You’ve been warned!

Beat the eggs in a large bowl (large enough to accommodate all the ingredients), add in the onion, garlic, lime zest, lemon juice, oregano and black pepper.

Go back to your sweating zucchini and give it a good squeeze.  You can save the zucchini water for soup or you can be super hardcore and just drink it, it’s good for you!  Squeeze as much water as you can, let it rest and squeeze again.  When you’re zucchini is significantly reduced in size and it’s drained for a good 15 min and you’ve pressed out a good deal of delicious zucchini water you are ready to add it to your egg and seasoning mixture.  Mix everything together.

The mixture will be soupy, which is where the flour comes in.  Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time till your zucchini mix is like thick muffin batter.  You are now ready for frying!

I used my large cast iron skillet to cook these since I use my large cast iron skillet for everything.  Add organic vegetable oil to generously coat the pan and heat to medium high.  You can make these pancakes as small or as large as you want just be sure to get them nice and brown on each side.  Set them on a plate covered with paper to absorb the excess oil.  Serve immediately, topped with fresh goat cheese and more oregano or, let them cool and wrap them up individually and store them in the freezer.  They make an excellent quick meal, just unwrap and pop them in your toaster oven or under the broiler.

Do you have an other suggestions or tips to make this recipe even better?