Saturday, March 31, 2012

Roasted Potatoes with Kalamata Olives

In this recipe, Kalamata olives add a delicious, briny dimension to these simple roasted potatoes. A dusting of chopped parsley adds a fresh complement.


1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley), divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, toss the potato cubes and onion wedges with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, as the olives we add later will be quite salty.) Arrange the coated potatoes in a single layer in a deep baking dish or roasting pan.

Cover with foil, and roast for 15 minutes.

Uncover and stir.

Return to oven and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and lightly golden.

Add the olives and 1/2 tablespoon of the chopped parsley to the potatoes, stir to combine, and roast uncovered for another 5-10 minutes to heat the olives and combine all the flavors.

Toss with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of parsley, and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Penne with Broccoli, Garlic, and Olive Oil

This is a recipe I grew up with. It was served frequently in the Italian-American home where I grew up.

It's simple and easy to make, but so delicious and nutritious - an example of the fact that gourmet food doesn't have to be complicated.


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

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

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

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes, if using. Saute for about 30 seconds, just until the aroma starts to emerge. Do not let the garlic get brown.

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

Add the drained pasta, along with salt and pepper to taste.

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

-- Serves 3-4

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lentil, Vegetable, and Chickpea Soup

This recipe starts with the ingredients for our Lentil Soup with Aromatic Vegetables, and then stretches it with the addition of diced tomatoes and chickpeas - an idea that I got while browsing a variety of soup recipes online. This practically doubles the number of servings while also adding extra color and nutrition to the soup.

This soup is light and healthy, yet also satisfying. Serve it as a first course, or make it a meal by adding some crusty bread and a green salad.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably petite-cut), undrained
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian-style flat-leaf parsley)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Do not let the garlic get brown.

Add the vegetable broth, lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables are tender.

Uncover. Add the parsley. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 more minutes, or as needed, to reduce the liquid as desired to a good soup consistency.

Remove and discard the bay leaf before serving.

-- 4-6 servings

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Herb-Breaded Fried Artichoke Hearts

In this fun and easy recipe, quartered canned artichoke hearts are coated with Italian-style breadcrumbs, and then sauteed in a little olive oil. Since they are not deep-fried, they do not turn out greasy.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the fried artichoke hearts at serving time for a fresh, tart contrast to the earthy flavor of the artichokes.

I like to buy the cans of already quartered artichoke hearts, to cut down on the prep time.


1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup Italian-seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Place the flour in a shallow bowl.

Meanwhile, in another shallow bowl, beat the egg along with the milk.

In a third shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Dip the quartered artichoke hearts into the flour, then coat with the egg-milk mixture, and then coat with the breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Use just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet. Do not let the oil get too hot, or the artichokes will brown too quickly on the outside and remain cold inside.

Add the coated artichoke quarters to the skillet, and cook until golden on both sides, turning once.

Transfer cooked artichoke hearts to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, to taste.

Serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing over the artichokes as desired.

-- 4 appetizer servings

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes and Black Olives (12-inch)

This pizza was inspired by a slice I enjoyed at a Philly suburban pizzeria many years ago. The restaurant is no longer there, but I never forgot that delicious pizza, so I just had to recreate it. The result was even better than what I remembered.

The two kinds of tomatoes - fresh and sun-dried - complement the pesto and black olives beautifully. Mozzarella cheese adds a mellow, comforting touch.


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 Italian-style 4- or 5-cheese blend, or mozzarella, divided
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and julienned
3 tablespoons black olives, pitted and sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

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 cheese.

Arrange the Roma tomato slices on the pizza in a single layer, and then sprinkle evenly with the sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Top the pizza with the remaining 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and the Parmesan.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, until golden.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing

-- 3-4 servings