How to Cook an Authentic Italian Meal When You’re Not Italian

Italian cuisine is extremely popular in the United States. As a matter of fact, it is tied with Mexican food as the most popular ethnic food served in the US. It also happens to be one of the most popular cuisines that we whip up at home.

But many aspiring home chefs fumble their way through the preparation of Italian cuisine, often without having much knowledge about it. Here, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to cook an authentic Italian dinner as a non-Italian.

Understanding ‘the Structure’ of an Authentic Italian Meal

Pasta

Although Italian cuisine is highly popular in the United States, a key aspect of it that we here across the Atlantic get wrong is the structure of the authentic Italian meal. The Mediterranean diet is widely known to be one of the most healthy in all the world. But with the incorrect focus on dishes and portions sizes, we have here in America, the health benefits of the excellent ingredients don’t find their way to our waistlines.

First and foremost, our portion sizes are far larger than those of ethnic Italians. Keep this in mind when preparing an authentic Italian dinner. Sometimes less is more when it comes to our health and the authenticity of a good meal. Go lighter, and enjoy the benefits of healthy ingredients.

Italian Lunch

Also, never eat pasta as a main course. Heavy pasta served as a main course would seldom (if ever) be found at the dinner table in Italy. Pasta is instead eaten as a small first course, served with olive oil and herbs or a sauce of fresh tomatoes and seasonings. This is a common misinterpretation of authentic Italian cuisine, and results in Americans, consuming way too much of the carbohydrate-heavy pasta, and too little of the lean meats and fresh vegetables and herbs, that are the country’s culinary trademarks.

Always Use Fresh & Raw Ingredients

Fresh Ingredients

Authentic Italian meals are noted for their attention to detail and choice of fine quality ingredients. In Italy, pre-made canned or frozen mixtures are virtually unused. The typical Italian chef, given a choice, will opt for fresh, raw ingredients every time. This one aspect is as or more essential to the creation of a fine Italian dish than any other.

Fresh herbs are one the well-known main staples of Italian cuisine. Choosing fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, and garlic will ensure an authenticity to the meal, no matter what Italian dish you are trying to create. Fresh vegetables are equally as important. Fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, and greens make their cuisine the gem that it is renowned to be.

Another key ingredient to fine Italian cooking is olive oil. Used as both as cooking oil and seasoning in the country’s cuisine, olive oil is absolutely necessary for any kitchen where Italian food is being prepared. Be sure to have some on hand before you start, no matter what dish you set out to make.

Pizza

Image source: Pixabay.com

How to Make a Fine Italian Dessert

An authentic Italian meal is generally served in courses. And one of the courses is often times comprised of a delicious traditional dessert. Here are some tips on making gelato, a scrumptious and authentic Italian dessert.

1. Search for a recipe for an Authentic Italian gelato.

There are many methods for making gelato today. Try to choose a specifically Italian recipe to add a distinct authenticity to your dessert course. Choose traditional flavors such as lemon to keep the meal extra Italian.

2. Always prepare the gelato from scratch, shortly before serving.

Gelato should always be prepared shortly before it makes its way to the dinner table, as should all Italian foods. This freshness reinforces the authenticity of the entire meal and will wow your dinner guests.

Gelato

Image source: Flickr.com

3. Make sure the ice you use tastes good and fresh.

Be sure that the ice you use in your gelato doesn’t have any of that strange taste that it sometimes can from sitting too long in the freezer. If the ice tastes bad, the gelato will suffer as well. The ice maker may be in need of cleaning, or if this doesn’t work, disassembly and a deep cleaning.

4. Choose only fresh ingredients for your gelato.

Gelato, as well as all Italian dishes, needs to be prepared with only fresh ingredients to preserve the authenticity and flavor. Use only fresh fruits, and chocolates, and vanillas for your gelato. Never substitute these ingredients with fake flavor syrups and the like.

To recap, an authentic Italian meal can be made by anyone with even rudimentary cooking skills, so long as they follow these pointers.

  • Use fresh ingredients
  • Serve in courses
  • Limit serving sizes
  • Reserve pasta for a small introductory course

Keep it fresh, and light, and remember to use plenty of olive oil and your Italian dishes will be truly authentic, delicious, and healthy. Buon Appetito!


 This is an invited post by BookCulinaryVacations.com.


By Mike, contributor writer in BookCulinaryVacations.com. He enjoys indulging in traditional cuisine every time he has the chance. He recently came back from a 7-day trip to Ireland. He plans to visit the Philippines this year and tasting the controversial balut.

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August in Greece III

Another year and another holiday in my home country. August in Greece is unbelievable!

Summer in Greece

It’s difficult to use words to explain the magic of Greek summers! The food, the vegetables, the weather, the sea, the people…plus the magic the Greek gods offered generously.

I am not going to write much as I am in a rush to go to the beach. I just wanted to say “Hello” and share some cool images with you.

Gia mas!

Our stray cat Peggy

Our stray cat Peggy

Peggy again

Peggy again

 

Fish in the oven with tomatoes from my friend Dimitris

Fish in the oven with tomatoes from my friend Dimitris

Grilled chicken with chips and mustard sauce from a local tavern

Grilled chicken with chips and mustard sauce from a local tavern

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Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

A recipe for kale and spinach filo rolls with dill and feta cheese. A delicious treat to boost yourself with iron and vitamins.

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

As I continue my culinary journey to the land of pastries, I had to do some rolls involving my favorite greens. Spinach and kale.

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

Both spinach and kale are very nutritious and can boost your immune system with vitamins and iron. In terms of taste, I think that they complement each other. You have the slightly bitter taste of spinach and the “nuttier” taste of kale. Win-win situation.

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

Onion and leek is a standard addition in the famous Greek spinach pie (Spanakopita) so I am using them here too. Spinach and fresh dill go so well together so I couldn’t do without dill’s aroma.

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

As always, the choice of the filo pastry makes most of the difference. Simple filo sheets from the supermarket will do fine. I used hand-made “village-type” Greek filo and it was delicious. You could also use Yufka sheets and pretend you are making Turkish Boreks!

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls

Kale with Spinach and Feta Filo Rolls
A recipe for kale and spinach filo rolls with dill and feta cheese. A delicious treat to boost yourself with iron and vitamins.

Author:
Cuisine: World
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 400 gr (14 oz) kale chopped (the hard parts removed).
  • 200 gr (7 oz) fresh baby spinach chopped.
  • 5 filo sheets.
  • 1 leek finely sliced.
  • 1 large yellow onion finely chopped.
  • A bunch of fresh dill finely chopped.
  • 1 egg.
  • 200 gr (7 oz) crumbled Feta cheese.
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Wash the spinach and kale and let it drain in a colander.
  2. Add the olive oil in a deep pot and heat it up at medium heat. Add the onion and leek and cook until it starts getting brown. Add the spinach and kale and stir well. They will reduce in size as they get cooked. Season with pepper and cook for ~ 10 minutes (with occasional stirring) until they release their juices. Add the dill and stir well. Remove from the heat and drain the juices using a colander. Put the mixture back in the pot and let it cool down for ~ 30 minutes.
  3. When the mixture has cooled down, add the Feta cheese and the egg and stir well.
  4. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees (360 F).
  5. To make long rolls, take one of the filo sheets and place it on the bench. Use a kitchen brush and spread some olive oil on its surface. Add some of the mixture (~ 2 tablespoons) close to the top of the sheet. Fold slightly the edges (so they are sealed when rolled) and roll it to create a nice and tight “cigar”. Place it on a tray covered with parchment paper. Repeat with the other filo sheets.
  6. Use the kitchen brush and spread some more olive oil on the rolls. Bake in the oven for ~ 30 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Bon appetit!

 

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5 Easy Healthy Recipes to Boost Immunity

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ?Hippocrates

Did you know that the immune system’s army is in the stomach? And to keep the army healthy, you need to feed it good nourishment.

5 Easy and Healthy Recipes to Boost Immunity

Our immune system does an incredible job at protecting us from all those pesky germs that want to invade our body. But sometimes, germs pass by it and we get sick. Thankfully, it is possible to intervene and give the immune system a helping hand.

In this article, I share you easy recipes to boost immunity and help you fight those nasty germs and colds.

1) Ginger-spiced banana smoothie

Ginger is a well known antibacterial food, which has anti-inflammatory properties, eases gut problems, and even kills cancer cells. Boost its anti-inflammatory proprieties with a dash of cinnamon and a handful of spinach and you’ve got a new favorite breakfast.

Ginger-spiced banana smoothie

To make this smoothie you need:

  • 3 bananas

  • 2 cups spinach

  • 2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk

  • 1 piece (½ inch) of ginger peeled (and grated)

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp cardamom (optional)

Start by blending the spinach with milk until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend again. It makes two servings.

If you are not used to spices, start with using just a bit of ginger and skipping the cardamom.

You can also swap 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of yogurt.

2) Red Cabbage healing smoothie

Freshly picked red cabbage has the highest concentration of flavonoids/antioxidants of all other cabbages. Add in blackberries, with their high vitamin C content and antioxidants, and you’ve got an excellent smoothie for when you are fighting a cold. Need more fighting power against the cold? Bring in the elderberry, which is also high in vitamin C.

Red Cabbage healing smoothie

To make this smoothie, you need:

  • 2 cups red cabbage, chopped

  • 1 cup blackberries

  • 1 tsp elderberry extract (or ¼ cup of fruits)

  • 1 medium orange

  • 1 banana

  • 1 cup of water

Start by blending the red cabbage, water, and orange until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend again.

3) Pineapple parfait

The weird looking pineapple has a lot of health benefits. It helps cure colds, improves digestion, reduces inflammation, protects against cancer, and helps keep your immune system in perfect shape. Add some yogurt into the mix and you have a great breakfast or snack to keep you healthy.

Pineapple parfait

To make the parfait, you need:

  • 1 cup pineapple chunks

  • ¾ cup yogurt

In a bowl (or large glass), add the yogurt and the pineapple on top. Sprinkle some seeds or berries.

You can replace the yogurt with cottage cheese and the pineapple with papaya, which is also known to help the immune system and prevent cancer.

4) Beans soup

High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, beans are a powerful tool to keep us healthy in the long run. They are also very affordable and can be turned into delicious dishes. Add to the mix onions, which have powerful antioxidants and the ability to enhance your digestive system, and this soup should be part of your fail-proof recipes to live a healthier life.

Beans soup

To make the beans soup, you need:

  • 1/3 cup each of black beans, kidney beans, and great northern beans, dried

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 1 large carrot, diced

  • 4 cups (homemade) vegetable broth

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • ½ tsp oregano

  • ½ cup barley

  • 1 tbsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 9 cups water

  • salt to taste

Boil the water in a kettle. Start by heating the oil. Then add the onions, celery, and carrot. Cook until smooth (about 5 minutes). Then add in all the other ingredients. The cooking time depends on the beans and may take up to 2 ½ hours. Make sure to add water as needed.

5) Beets hummus

Beets are known to lower blood pressure, improve stamina, fight inflammation, protect against cancer, and are a good source of vitamin C, too. No wonder they are known as one of the healthy foods you should eat on a regular basis.

Beets hummus

To make beet hummus, you need:

  • 1 medium beet (boiled or raw)

  • 1 small can chickpeas

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • juice of ½ lemon (or to taste)

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 tbsp tahini (optional)

  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)

If you prefer to use boiled beets, then do that before you make the hummus. Once completely cooled, grate it or use a food processor. In the food processor, add the chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. Then add the tahini (or paprika). Now you are ready for the beets. Add them in and mix well.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a vertical (immersion) blender to make the hummus. And then just add the grated beets.

A more earthy taste can be obtained if you use raw beets instead.

————————–

This is a contributed article by Cris Puscas.

Cris Puscas is a contributing writer at BookCulinaryVacations.com, the best place to book a culinary vacation. She is a hopeless romantic, equally passionate about discovering new places to explore and new foods to try.

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Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Delicious and easy to make Turkish Sigara Borek. Deep fried Hallumi and fresh mint rolled in filo pastry.

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

I have a great passion in stuffed filo rolls. They can be meaty or veggie ones, I don’t mind. As long as I can taste the crunchy filo and an interesting filling, I am good.

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

No one can make better filo rolls than people from the eastern Mediterranean countries. Sigara Borek is coming from Turkey and is exactly that. Fried filo rolls stuffed with grated Hallumi cheese and fresh mint. Nothing more, nothing less.

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

What is important in Sigara Borek is the filo that you are using. I used village handmade filo from Greece this time and it worked fine. I am sure you can do it with basic filo sheets you find in many supermarkets. If you want to taste the real thing, try to find the Yufka sheets, the traditional Turkish pastry they use for Sigara Borek. I am sure you can find it in a Middle-East deli or something similar.

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

A special thanks to Kondje for actually making the Sigara Borek!

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)

Turkish Halloumi and Mint Rolls (Sigara Borek)
Delicious and easy to make Turkish Sigara Borek. Deep fried Hallumi and fresh mint rolled in filo pastry.

Author:
Cuisine: Turkish
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 3-4 filo sheets or Yufka pastry.
  • 250 gr (9 oz) Hallumi cheese grated.
  • A generous handful of mint leaves finely chopped.
  • 1 egg.
  • Sunflower oil for frying.
  • Ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Add the grated Halloumi, mint and egg in a bowl and mix well. Season with pepper to taste.
  2. Cut the filo or Yufka sheets in triangles, ~ 20 cm (8 inches) wide. Add a tablespoon of the Halloumi mixture close to the top. Roll the Sigara Borek making sure the edges are sealed by folding part of them (see in the photo). Repeat with the rest of the sheets until you finish the mixture.
  3. Add the sunflower oil (~ ½ lt, 17 fl oz) in a deep pot and heat it up on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the Sigara Borek and deep-fry them until golden brown. Depending on your pot, you may need to fry the Sigara in two batches. Remove from the pot and place them on a tray covered by a kitchen towel on the bottom to absorb the excess oil.
  4. Serve the Sigara Borek warm.
  5. Bon appetit

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German Beef Rouladen Stew

German Beef Rouladen Stew

A delicious recipe for the traditional German beef Rouladen. Hearty beef rolls stuffed with onion, lardons and pickles in a rich sauce.

German Beef Rouladen Stew

I was in Germany last week for a business trip. I always enjoy visiting Germany, especially in the summer when the weather is quite pleasant.

German Beef Rouladen Stew

German Beef Rouladen Stew

Besides the business, the main reason I went there was the food! I love German food, these people know how to eat well. From the local sausages to accompany your lovely and cold Pilsner to hearty Sauerbraten, a slowly-cooked and delicious meat stew.

German Beef Rouladen Stew

German Beef Rouladen Stew

And what about the bread? Oh, just delicious! Even the simple and cheap Pretzels are a treat for the palate.

I visited a restaurant during my visit and had the chance to try the famous beef Rouladen. That was it! I was in heaven. A roll of good quality beef stuffed with onions, lardons and gherkins. It’s a kind of a stew cooked in a lovely and rich brown sauce. I had to learn how to do it and share it with you.

German Beef Rouladen Stew

Beef Rouladen takes some effort to prepare but the result is very satisfying. The Germans cook it at home for special occasions or when they want to treat their family with something special. It’s a bit heavy but it really does worth the risk!

German Beef Rouladen Stew

German Beef Rouladen Stew

You can serve it with mashed or crashed potatoes or even some braised cabbage. Just dip into the fine German cuisine and you will be rewarded!

German Beef Rouladen Stew

German Beef Rouladen Stew
A delicious recipe for the traditional German beef Rouladen. Hearty beef rolls stuffed with onion, lardons and pickles in a rich sauce.

Author:
Cuisine: German
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 3

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 6 slices of top round beef.
  • 2 carrots cut in thick pieces.
  • 2 celery sticks chopped.
  • 1 large red onion coarsely chopped.
  • 1 yellow onion finely chopped.
  • 200 gr (7 oz) smoked lardons.
  • Dijon mustard.
  • 3 cornichons (gherkins) cut lengthwise in half.
  • 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • 1 cup of red wine.
  • 2 cups of beef broth.
  • Salt and ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the yellow onion at medium heat until they start getting brown.
  2. Add the lardons in a frying pan and fry them (without any oil or other fat) at medium heat until they start becoming crispy.
  3. Place the beef fillets on your working bench and cover them with cling film. Use a rolling pin and roll them like a dough until them become quite thin (a couple of times will be enough).
  4. Use one of your fillets and season with salt and pepper. Spread one teaspoon of Dijon mustard on top. Add close to one side of the fillet a tablespoon of fried yellow onion, a tablespoon of fried lardons and 1 piece of cornichons. Fold slightly the sides and roll the beef fillet like a Dolma, making sure the edges are sealed. Secure the beef roll with a toothpick so it doesn’t open during cooking. Set aside and repeat with the others.
  5. Add the rest of the olive oil in a large and deep pot or Dutch oven and heat it up at medium heat. Add the beef rolls and cook them until they get brown in both sides. When done, remove them from the pot and set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven at 190 degrees Celsius (370 F).
  7. Add the carrots, celery and red onion in the same pot and cook them using the same oil at medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Use a wooden spoon and scratch gently the bottom of the pot to release the flavors of the fried meat. Season with salt and pepper and add the red wine. Bring it to boil, let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the beef broth. Place the beef rolls (together with their toothpicks) in the pot making sure they are covered by the juices. Bring it to boil, cover with a lid and place it in the oven for about 1 hour.
  8. Enjoy your beef Rouladen with mashed potatoes and/or braised cabbage (Sauerkraut).
  9. Bon appetit!

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

A summer recipe for delicious roasted eggplant and tomato tart. Together with the basil mozzarella it’s almost an Italian Caprese bake.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

Summer is here and her majesty, the eggplant comes again to stimulate our senses and palate. This is a recipe with Mediterranean origin (of course!) that blends roasted vegetables with herbs and mozzarella cheese.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

There a few crucial points that need attention in this recipe. First, the pastry itself. I strongly recommend to make your own pastry and not using much butter (not at all, if possible). I have to admit that I have been a lazy boy and bought some ready-made from the supermarket. While it works fine, I found it overwhelming with butter. Next time (I promise) I will make my own. You can look around for some good recipes for homemade pastry for savory tarts.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

The second one is the tomatoes. They have to be ripe, juicy and sweet. Spend a couple of extra bucks and get these nice, but maybe more expensive, ones. You will be rewarded.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

Always use extra-virgin olive oil. It makes a difference and is much healthier. Get these nice and fresh mozzarella balls and not the dried shredded one. If possible, and you can afford it, get the mozzarella di Bufala for extra pleasure and gastronomic sensations.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart

Roasted eggplant and tomato tart is relatively easy and a great idea for light lunch or dinner. Try it for some unique Italian and Mediterranean sensations.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes Tart
A summer recipe for delicious roasted eggplant and tomato tart. Together with the basil mozzarella it’s almost an Italian Caprese bake.

Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 1 shortcrust pastry sheet.
  • 1 eggplant sliced.
  • 5-6 medium sweet and juicy tomatoes sliced.
  • 200 gr (7 oz) fresh mozzarella (di Bufala if possible).
  • A small bunch of fresh basil finely chopped.
  • A few capers.
  • ~ ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil.
  • A pinch of dried oregano.
  • Salt and ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
  2. Cut the eggplants and tomatoes into ~1/2 inch thick slices. Cover a flat tray with parchment and put the eggplants on top. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle some salt. Cover another tray with parchment and lay the tomato slices. Sprinkle some olive oil on top, oregano, salt and pepper. Roast the eggplants and tomatoes until they start getting brown (the tomatoes may need a bit more time).
  3. Use a medium round tray for tarts a brush the bottom and walls with olive oil. Place the shortcrust pastry sheet and make sure it covers the bottom and walls. Cut the remaining pastry. Slice the mozzarella in about ½ inch tick slices. Start filling your tart by placing 1 eggplant slice, one tomato slice and a slice of mozzarella. Repeat until you cover the whole tray. While doing that, throw some of the basil.
  4. Add the rest of the basil on top and scatter some capers. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bake in the oven for ~ 30 minutes until the cheese starts getting a nice brown color.
  6. Serve hot or warm.
  7. Bon appetit!

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Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

A hearty recipe for brown lentils with smoked sausage and spinach stew. A guilty pleasure with a boost of iron.

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

Lentils and sausage! Strange combination, isn’t it? One would eat a lentils soup or salad as a part of a healthy diet. Add sausages and you ruin everything!

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

You may be right but many of us would like to enjoy the benefits and taste of lentils while having a dose of meat in there. Interestingly, the tastes blend quite well. Add some spinach and you have an iron and protein boost.

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

The choice or sausages is important but not critical. They need to be hard-is so you can slice them and don’t get destroyed while cooking. English sausages are not good for this dish. You could try some Italian or Polish sausages.

During my last visit in Greece, I visited a Cretan deli and bought some locally produced sausages. The ones I used where made following a recipe from a local monastery in Crete. Very good quality meat (pork) and herbs from the Cretan mountains. Lucky me!

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew

If you have been following my recipes, you should know that I always add some fresh tomatoes when I make a red sauce. If I was in Greece or Italy, I would only use fresh tomatoes, especially in the summer when they are juicy and sweet. Here, I have to pay lots of money to buy some decent tomatoes but definitely worth it. So I use a combination of fresh and tinned tomatoes. Not bad.

Lentils with Smoked Sausage and Spinach Stew
A hearty recipe for brown lentils with smoked sausage and spinach stew. A guilty pleasure with a boost of iron.

Author:
Cuisine: World
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup brown lentils.
  • 300 gr (10 oz) spicy smoked sausage.
  • 300 gr (10 oz) fresh spinach.
  • 1 ½ yellow onion chopped.
  • 2 carrots sliced.
  • 1 celery stick sliced.
  • 2-3 garlic cloves chopped.
  • 1 red chili pepper chopped.
  • 2-3 ripe and sweet tomatoes.
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) chopped tin tomatoes.
  • A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley.
  • 1 cup of beef stock.
  • ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (maybe a bit more).
  • Salt and ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Boil the lentils in a pot with plenty of water for ~ 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Wash the spinach and chop it coarsely. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pot on medium heat. Cook the spinach for ~ 10 minutes. Drain it and keep aside.
  3. Wash the pot from the spinach juices. Cut the sausages in pieces ~ 1 inch thick. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the sausages on medium heat until golden brown. Place the cooked sausages on a plate covered with kitchen towel and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil in the pot and add the onions on medium heat. Scratch gently the bottom with a wooden spoon to release the aromas from the sausages. After ~ 5 minutes, add the carrots, celery and chili pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables start getting soft.
  5. Add the fresh tomatoes and parsley in a food processor and make a nice paste.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for ~ 1 minute. Give it a good stir. Add the cooked sausages, fresh tomato paste from the processor, chopped tomatoes from the tin and the beef broth. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Bring it to boil and let it cook for ~ 10 minutes.
  7. Add the lentils back to the pot and stir well. If the juices don’t cover the lentils, add some hot water. Set the heat to low-medium.
  8. When the vegetables are almost cooked (~ 30 minutes), add the spinach and stir well. Cook for another 10 minutes until lentils and vegetables (especially carrots) are soft and melting in your mouth.
  9. Serve the lentils warm with nice bread and Feta cheese.
  10. Bon appetit!

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Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

A summer favorite casserole (Gemista) with stuffed eggplants and peppers with rice and herbs. A healthy vegan dish to indulge without second thoughts.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed vegetables is one of my favorite dishes, easily. There are many versions of them. You can have stuffed eggplants with meat (with or without rice), stuffed peppers with cheese etc. But in this case, simplicity makes perfection.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

“Gemista”, as they are called in Greece, is a traditional summer casserole made with the vegetables that grow in the field near you. Tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and eggplants. You prepare a mix with rice and herbs, you stuff them, add lots of olive oil and tomato and cook it in the oven.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

Voila! You are in heaven already when your kitchen starts smelling these wonderful aromas coming from the oven.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

It’s literally a vegan dish as you don’t need any animal products. Only what’s coming from Mother Earth. In fact, you are not missing anything. Gemista is a hearty meal that will content your palate and tummy.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

As I often complain, I can’t find any big ripe tomatoes where I live. And I miss that a lot. So, I opted for a version with eggplants and peppers only. I found some smaller sweet tomatoes to make the sauce but it would be ridiculous to stuff them.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

I also used long grain rice as I believe it’s the best for making Gemista. You already have all the herbs to bring the aromas so you don’t need basmati or any other kind of aromatic rice.

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed Eggplants and Peppers with Rice and Herbs
A summer favorite casserole (Gemista) with stuffed eggplants and peppers with rice and herbs. A healthy vegan dish to indulge without second thoughts.

Author:
Cuisine: Greek
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 6 eggplants.
  • 2 green bell peppers.
  • 1 carrot shredded.
  • 1 ½ yellow onion finely chopped.
  • 1 ½ cup of long grain rice.
  • 2 garlic cloves.
  • 5-6 medium sweet and juicy tomatoes.
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) tomato passata or tinned tomatoes.
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
  • A small bunch of fresh mint finely chopped.
  • A generous bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped.
  • 3-4 potatoes cut in big chunks.
  • Salt and ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Wash the eggplants and peppers. Take one eggplant and cut a thin piece from the top lengthwise, making sure you don’t reach the edges (bottom and top). Use a knife or/and a spoon and remove the flash from the eggplant making sure you don’t break the walls. Keep a handful from the eggplant flesh for the mixture. Alternatively, you can cut a piece from the top and empty the flesh until you reach the bottom. For the peppers, make a circular cut with a knife close to the top and remove it. Cut all the seeds and keep the top as you are going to use it as a lid.
  2. Add the half of the fresh tomatoes and the garlic in a food processor and create a nice paste.
  3. Chop finely the handful of eggplant flesh you kept. Add half of the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it starts getting soft. Add the eggplant flesh and carrot and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the rice, stir well and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste from the processor, ⅓ of the passata, parsley, mint and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir well, bring it to boil and remove from the heat.
  4. Add the remaining tomatoes in a the food processor and make another paste.
  5. Use a spoon and start filling the eggplants the peppers. Do not fill them until the top as the rice will expand during cooking. Place the stuffed vegetables in a deep baking tray and cover them with their lids.
  6. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360 F)
  7. Add the potatoes in the tray and pour in the olive oil, fresh tomato paste and passata. If you think there isn’t enough oil, add some more. It must be an oily dish. Add a cup of hot water. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Cover the tray with kitchen foil and let it cook in the oven for ~ 90 minutes. Check from time to time to see if it needs some more liquids (water). Uncover the tray and cook for another 15 minutes to get a nice brown color.
  9. Serve the stuffed vegetables warm with a piece of Feta cheese on the side.
  10. Bon appetit!

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Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew in Wine Sauce

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew in Wine Sauce

An awesome recipe for Italian Chicken Cacciatore in a wine and tomato sauce. Best served with Bucatini pasta or wild rice.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

From what I understand, Chicken Cacciatore (the Italian Hunter’s chicken) doesn’t exist! At least, not as an official recipe. That makes sense as the purpose of the dish was for the hunters to cook something fast with the catch of the day. So, I am not even sure if chicken is actually involved.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Apparently, the hunters used what they had in the fridge to make a hearty meal. What would you find in an Italian house? Tomatoes, wine, basil, olives. Use all of that, add your meat, put it in the oven and you are done!

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Here we are talking about feeding some serious eaters that can appreciate good food. Chicken Cacciatore is a stew (or casserole) dish that needs to be enjoyed by talking the time to appreciate every little bite.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

All the flavors from each ingredient are combined perfectly to take you to heaven. But, do you have to use mushrooms? Would the Italians use mushrooms in such a dish? Trust me, the mushrooms are an excellent addition to Chicken Cacciatore. You do like mushrooms in garlic and wine sauce, don’t you? You will enjoy them here too.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Chicken Cacciatore can be cooked in the oven or the stove. I used a nice pot that can go in the oven and left it there for ~ 2 hours so the chicken has absorbed all the flavors and the meat falls from the bone. A couple of hours cooked on low heat would give the same result I guess. However, you can’t get the final browning of the chicken when you let it cook in the oven uncovered.

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

So, make some nice spaghetti or Bucatini and enjoy this lovely recipe of Chicken Cacciatore!

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew

Italian Chicken Cacciatore Stew
An awesome recipe for Italian Chicken Cacciatore in a wine and tomato sauce. Best served with Bucatini pasta or wild rice.

Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Ingredients
  • 4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks with the skin on.
  • 200 gr of mushrooms cut in half.
  • 1 ½ onion chopped.
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped.
  • 1 carrot cut in cubes.
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped.
  • 2 ripe and sweet tomatoes coarsely cut.
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz) tomato passata.
  • A bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped.
  • A small bunch of fresh basil finely chopped.
  • 15-20 pitted olives.
  • ½ bottle of Chianti wine.
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano.
  • 1 teaspoon paprika.
  • 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour.
  • Salt and ground pepper.

Instructions
  1. Wash the chicken pieces, dry them with a kitchen towel and season them with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the olive oil in a deep pot (or Dutch oven) that can go into the oven. Heat up the oil on a medium-high heat. Coat the chicken pieces with flour and fry them starting with the side with the skin on. Cook until nicely brown in both sides and set aside.
  3. Use a wooden spoon and scratch the bottom of the pot to release the sticky bits. Set the heat to medium and add the onion, green pepper and carrots. Add the oregano, paprika and season with salt and pepper. Cook until they start getting brown.
  4. Preheat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius (340 F)
  5. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two while stirring. Add half of the wine and bring it to boil. Add the parsley, basil, fresh tomatoes, olives and passata, season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Place the cooked chicken pieces and add the remaining wine. The juices must cover the chicken pieces. If not, add some hot water.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid and let it slowly-cook in the oven for ~ 90 minutes. Remove the lid and let it cook for another 15 minutes to get a nice brown color.
  7. Serve Chicken Cacciatore hot with rice or Bucatini pasta.
  8. Bon appetit!

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