Sweet Potatoes……two more ways!

During the height of COVID-19, it seemed as though everyone I knew had an abundance of sweet potatoes.  Whether it was a bulk order from Costco or Baldor, the sweet potatoes abounded.  I’m still trying to use up all the sweet potatoes I have.  Part of the problem was that the potatoes were the size of footballs.  One half of a potato could feed a family of four!  As a matter of fact, I still have two huge sweet potatoes from an April order still waiting to be cooked.

“Do you need sweet potatoes?” was a constant question.

“No thanks.  I have so many myself,” was the predictable answer.

After we baked them; boiled and mashed them; made sweet potato fries; candied them; and even made a sweet potato pie or two, we were still asking each other what the heck to do with these monstrous potatoes.  Not letting any food go to waste was of utmost importance.  We were so grateful to have what we had, for fear that food might (and sometimes did) become hard to get.

In my last stitch effort to use up these delightfully sweet additions to any meal, I was so happy to get a delicious new recipe from my daughter and one from a dear friend.  We had so many laughs over these potatoes that seemed to be reproducing during the night.  Truly another fond memory from such a tragic time in our lives.  Thanks Beth and Judith for memories!

Beth’s Baked Parmesan Sweet Potato Rounds:

3 medium sweet potatoes (or one of those huge ones I’ve mentioned)

4 TBSP melted butter

4 cloves of garlic , crushed or minced

3 TBSP chopped parsley

4 TBSP grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil spray

  1.  Peel potatoes and cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook until tender, but still firm, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Gently remove and drain.
  3. Lightly oil (or spray) a baking sheet pan and place potatoes on it.   Using a fork, lightly flatten each piece being careful not to mash.
  4. Mix the butter, garlic and parsley and pour over each potato slice.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lightly spray with olive oil spray.
  5. Broil in oven until they are somewhat crispy, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Return to oven until cheese is melted.

 

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B sweet potato plated ***Judith’s Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

3 medium sweet potatoes ( or one of those huge ones)

4 TBSP olive oil

several sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can chop some )

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel potatoes and cut into 2 inch cubes (or any size you like….larger or smaller)
  3. Combine potatoes with the oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to coat and combine.
  4. Place on a lightly oiled (or sprayed with olive oil spray)baking sheet pan.
  5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (depending on size of cubes) or until tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside.

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B sweet potato plated ***

 

Apple-Blueberry Pie

blueberry pie plated

I’m excited to be back after several months of “lockdown.”   I’m not exactly sure why I wasn’t able to bring myself to blog during this period.  I wasn’t able to focus on much of anything other than the tragic and very frightening matter at hand.  Food was no longer enjoyable to me.  Just like you, I was spending all my time procuring food in as safe a manner as possible.  This wasn’t easy, and still isn’t for some of us.

Looking back now, I treasure the trips to friends’ houses, sharing food.  We either bought too much of something or couldn’t find something that we “desperately” needed.  A food drop-off at a friend’s might mean you brought them some sweet potatoes and onions, and you returned home with a packet of yeast, some flour and a roll of toilet paper.  I love how we shared.  And of course, I love how we shared recipes.  “What am I going to do with all these cucumbers?” I’d ask, and before I knew it, someone sent me a recipe for cucumber soup or cucumber salad.   “What are you making for dinner tonight?” we’d question, waiting to hear some exotic recipe that you now had to make.    And the baking!!!  Well we couldn’t let those apples go bad…..or the bananas….or all those chocolate chips we bought!!  And now that we had flour and yeast, we had to bake some bread!

Food brought us together.  Where to get it?  How to cook it?  I loved the SOS phone calls from friends who never cook, now desperate to learn.  Listening to their worries about how they would feed their families 7 nights a week was heartwarming.  Food heals, and food would heal their families.   Of this they were determined.  We would keep our loved ones safe through lovingly making meals night after night.  (Okay, some nights not so lovingly).

All this is so very endearing to me now.  It conjured up memories of my childhood, and the neighborly way my mom and her friends had the time to talk about food in this manner.  The childhood aroma of something always baking in the oven came back to me now, as I used up those apples and bananas, and we needed the comfort of some home baked bread.

I know we certainly aren’t out of the woods just yet, and life will be different for a while, but I’m now finding some comfort within these memories.  I’m hoping we hold on to the bonds we’ve formed and tightened from this experience for a long time.  There is something beautiful to be found amidst all this.  I hope I’ll continue to drive 25 minutes to pick up some blueberries and a recipe from my daughter and stay for a chat…….because we have the time……..

Here is a recipe she shared with me when we were both overcome with too many blueberries and our apples were starting to go bad.

RECIPE

1   Pillsbury frozen pie crust, defrosted as direct….or certainly your own homemade crust.

FILLING:

4 cups sliced peeled apples (approx. 4 medium apples)

2 cups fresh blueberried

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 TBSP lemon juice

TOPPING:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/3 cup butter, softened

  1.  Place sheet of foil on rack below middle oven rack to catch drips (essential!).  Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place pie crust in 9 inch glass pie pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix filling ingredients and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix fruit topping ingredients with fork until crumbly.
  5. Spoon fruit into crust-lined pan,  Spoon topping evenly over fruit.  It may appear to be piled high, but it falls as it bakes.
  6. Place pie on middle oven rack over the foil.
  7. After 20 minutes, cover the entire pie loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive  browning.  Bake another 40 to 50 minutes.  Apples should be tender and filling bubbling a bit around the edges.
  8. Cool 2 hours.  It’s delicious warm or cold!

blueberry pie ingredients

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The Famous Breaded Pork Chops

pork chops plated closeup**

This is one of my favorite recipes, as it was given to me from a friend, along with the actual pork chops to be cooked!  Yes, she delivered the pork chops, and a delicious suggestion of how to make them.   How lucky could I get??!!

I should explain the “cult following” that these pork chops have attained, amongst my friends, these past few months.  They come from a butcher in a nearby town, and they are simply spectacular in their own right.   You could cook them in the oven with nothing on them, and they still would be incredibly tasty and melt in your mouth.   So one person, told another person, who told another person about them, and so on,  until now just about everyone I know buys these pork chops at this butcher shop!

We have shared this recipe for breaded pork chops amongst us as well.  It’s so easy, and so delicious.  Now I’m not suggesting that you have to get these particular pork chops from this particular butcher.  The recipe will turn any pork chop into a tasty meal that I’m sure will become a favorite.   This recipe stands alone, and truly deserves cult notoriety on its own.   If nothing else, it’s creating memories for sure.  I know we will look back someday on what we will fondly remember as “the year of the pork chops.”

Recipe:

2 – 4 pork chops

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 jar cherry peppers, hot or mild (your preference), sliced and juice reserved

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for the pan

  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. lightly oil the bottom of a baking pan
  3. salt and pepper the pork chops
  4. dip the chops into the egg (both sides) and then the breadcrumbs (both sides)
  5. place chops in the baking pan.
  6. cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
  7. after 35 minutes remove the foil and add the cherry peppers and 1/2 cup or so of the juice.
  8. cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of chops.
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Pignoli (Pine Nuts) Cookies

pignoli plated**

There’s two day left for Holiday cookies, and these are quick and easy.  Actually, I don’t need a holiday to enjoy these cookies.  I make them all throughout the year.  They remind me more of Sunday dinners, rather than Christmas or New Year’s.  You could always count on a relative to bring an assortment of Italian cookies from a local bakery to Sunday dinner.  Pignoli cookies were my favorite, and I’d always have room for at least one cookie after that very filling dinner.  I’d pray that some would be left so I could enjoy them all week long.

I always assumed that they were difficult to make, so I never attempted them until several years ago.  I searched through many recipes to find that there is very little variation.  So over the years, I’ve changed a little “this” or added a bit more of “that,” and I’m always extremely happy with the results.  I hope you will be too.

I wish you all a healthy and happy 2020!!

Recipe:  makes about 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size

1 pound canned almond paste

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large egg whites

1 cup pine nuts

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, if desired.

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Crumble the almond paste into a mixing bowl, and beat with a hand mixer (or standing mixer) until finely crumbled.
  4. Add sugar and beat until incorporated.
  5. Beat in egg white, one at a time, and continue beating until batter is smooth.
  6. Spread pine nuts on a plate.
  7. Scoop out a tablespoon-size piece of dough and roll in hands to form a ball.  Should be the size of a golf ball.
  8. Roll ball in pine nuts.
  9. Bake until lightly browned and soft and springy, about 20 minutes.
  10. Cool and sprinkle with confectioners sugars, if desired.

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Manhattan Cocktail (Holiday Lifesaver)

manhattan ****

I have a bit of guilt this Holiday Season for not posting any recipes for cookies, sweets or family traditional dishes.  But heck, I’ve decided to post the most important recipe to me. Yes, it’s an alcoholic drink,  And yes, I need this to get through it all.  After a day of shopping, a Manhattan cocktail makes you forget all the money you’ve spent.  After a day of body breaking  gift wrapping, a Manhattan will relax your muscles.  After a day of baking, there’s nothing better.  Especially after a day of decorating, it is just lovely to sit down and savor this drink, while enjoying how beautiful and festive your house looks.  Ahh…….

Now why does one need a recipe for such a simple beverage?  Traditionally, it’s two to three parts rye to one part sweet vermouth, and add a cherry.  Well, as with most things, as time goes by,  we feel the need to improve on something that really doesn’t need improvement, but what the heck, we try.   And so it goes…..

So now days a Manhattan cocktail is sometimes made with rye and sometimes bourbon, which is very in vogue and therefore used for this drink.  As for the vermouth, you can go crazy with all the choices.  Vermouth has undergone quite a transformation in recent years.  There are so many brands and styles of vermouth, that I honestly am just using “trial and error” to see what is my favorite.   As you will see from the pictures posted, I’ve been experimenting with two different types.  One is slightly bitter, and the other has a smoky sweetness.  I’m enjoying them both.  But truth be told, I also like my much cheaper “Martini and Rossi ,” or any of the “regular” vermouths, which have been popular for many decades.  Bitters also range from simple to fancy brands.  Who can keep up??

One key ingredient, however, is the maraschino cherries.  I like a good brand, as the juice of the cherry is very important to me.

I’m not pushing alcohol, but if you need a little stress relief or just want to enjoy a cozy evening at home, sipping a delightfully warming beverage, this is for you.

Wishing you all a very wonderful and cozy holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cheers!

Recipe: 1 drink

3 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angustura bitters

1 maraschino cherry….sometimes I like 2

  1.  Fill a cocktail shaker (or you can use a mixing glass) with 1 cup of ice.
  2. Add the rye or bourbon, vermouth, and bitters.  Shake or stir well.
  3. Put the cherry with some syrup in the bottom of the glass.
  4. Pour, sit, sip and breath……..

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MaryAnn’s “Perfect Every Time” Turkey

turkey pan cooked

As I have mentioned time and time again, sharing recipes with family and friends is one of the great joys in my life.  I truly believe it has brought me closer to family, old friends and new friends alike.  It can even make a relative stranger part of your life.  Sharing something that we love with another person naturally brings us closer together, not only in the moment of exchange, but for years to come.   Each time I make the recipe (or even just glace at it), I remember that person in a special way.    I love to remember the time and place of the exchange.  It always brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.

This recipe for MaryAnn’s Perfect Every Time Turkey, as I call it, really brings an enormous grin to my face as I recall how she not only brought me the recipe for making a truly amazing turkey, but she also brought me the pan in which to make it.  She arrived one Tuesday morning to our writing class, with a large turkey roaster and a step by step typed recipe.  The week before, she and I had spent some time after class discussing the trials of cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Yes, even after decades of orchestrating this favorite meal, it still astounds me at how much work goes into producing a “perfect” Thanksgiving meal. Mary Ann swore that this pan and recipe would take all the guess work out of at least the turkey portion of the meal.   I could not have been more grateful.  So, I left class that November Tuesday with all my notebooks, papers and pens, and a turkey pan and recipe.  Happy?  Oh yeah!!

I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner that year, but I waited patiently to try this.   One Sunday, a few months later, when I had a full house for dinner, I abandoned our usual pasta with Sunday sauce tradition, and made a full Thanksgiving dinner.   I used the pan and followed MaryAnn’s recipe to a tee.  All I have to say is, “THE BEST TURKEY EVER!”

There’s still time to buy this pan on Amazon, or I’m sure in many stores.  Just remember that you don’t need to buy an expensive roaster.  However, if you already have a roaster, try this recipe.  You’ll be able to stop the worry and focus on the rest of the meal.  I guarantee you’ll be thankful for a “perfectly” moist and flavorful turkey with “perfectly” crisp skin!

PS  I apologize for the lack of pictures.  No one could keep their hands off the turkey meat and skin long enough for me to get some good pictures….including the puppy!  It’s that good!

RECIPE:

 14 to 18 lb turkey will fit in this pan.

5 TBSP butter

1 lemon

1 onion

few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup chicken broth

carrots celery and onions, chopped in large pieces, optional ( if you don’t have a rack for your pan.

  1.  Clean, dry and season turkey generously, inside and out, with kosher salt and pepper.  Brush all over with 2 to 3 TBSP melted butter.  Stuff the inside with a whole lemon, onion and fresh thyme.
  2. Place on a rack in the pan, or if you don’t have a rack, chop up big pieces of carrots, celery and onions, and place that on the bottom of the pan instead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the turkey with the lid on for 1 hour.
  4. After the first hour, pour in 1 cup of chicken stock.
  5. Baste it and brush it with additional 2 TBSP butter and roast with the lid on for another 30 to 60 minutes, until you achieve 165 degrees (breast).
  6. Take off the lid for the last 15 minutes to crisp it up nicely.

**NOTE:  Read MaryAnn’s recipe, as she will really convince you to use this method, if I haven’t done so already. turkey pan recipe

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Pasta with Cauliflower & Chick Peas

cauilflower pasta bowl**

I think that you could make pasta every day for an entire year (my kind of heaven), and never need to duplicate a recipe.  I really do.  Right off the top of my head, I could name close to 100 dishes that make my mouth water.  If I thought longer, and perused my Italian cookbooks and the internet, I know I could find an endless amount of recipes.  Sometimes it’s just the tweaking of an ingredient or two, and then you have an entirely new dish, with an entirely new taste altogether.  As a matter of fact, I have a cookbook titled, “Sunday Pasta” by Edwin Garrubbo, in which he claims that he made a different pasta for his family every Sunday for 5 years.  That seems incredulous, but I believe him!  And by the way, it’s a wonderful cookbook.

This being said, I feel I must share another pasta recipe with you, which is actually a combination of several recipes.  In my family, we love pasta with chick peas (see the archives) and we love pasta with just about any vegetable you can name(  so many in the archives).  So let’s put chick peas and cauliflower together with pasta, and yum!  You’ve got something new and full of flavor and texture.

Pasta with cauliflower and chick peas will be my 52nd pasta recipe on this blog.  I’ve got a long way to go to catch Edwin Garrubbo!  I just might take the challenge.  I’m feeling competitive.  Care to join me?

Recipe:  serves 4 to 6

1 pound fusilli or other short pasta

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes, if desired

1/4 tsp oregano

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets

1 19 ounce can of chick peas

3 TBSP bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for passing

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the cauliflower and pasta to the water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet.  Add the garlic and hot pepper seeds.  Sauté for 5 minutes, making sure not to brown the garlic.
  3. Add the chick peas and oregano to the skillet and cook through, about 10 minutes on low heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. By the time the pasta is done, the cauliflower should be a nice texture.  Drain.
  5. Put pasta and cauliflower in a large serving bowl.  Add the chick peas.  Toss well.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs and grated cheese and toss again.

 

Easy Crab Sauce Over Spaghetti

crab sauce plated closeup **

Before I even begin this blog post, I’m going to ask you to go to the archives and check out “Crab Sauce over Spaghetti.”    That recipe is the real deal.  However, it’s a lot more involved than this one.   Also, eating the dish prepared that way is quite a laborious and messy task.  My husband would say it’s more fun to cook and eat it that way (his way), but while I may agree, the effort is sometimes just too much for me.  When I want that delicate fish sauce quickly, and eaten without much fuss, a can of lump crab meat can do the trick.

To be honest, I had never made crab sauce this way, but I felt certain that this can of wild, jumbo lump crabmeat could be turned into something delightful.   Luckily for me, I had recently found this website called “Eat Your Books.”  It’s fantastic!  I highly recommend it, especially for cookbook lovers. You enter all your cookbooks onto their website  (a labor of love) and then, when looking for a specific recipe, you just type in a key word, and it will search all your cookbooks for a recipe.  It will then direct you to the exact cookbook where you can find the recipe.   So, I typed in “lump crab meat,” and it directed me to Michele Scicolone’s cookbook (one of my favorites), “1000 Italian Recipes.”  I followed it, and I was delighted with this fabulous sauce from the sea!!!!  It was easy and oh so delicious!!!  You don’t need a bib to eat it, nor do you have to crack shells and spend time digging out morsels of crabmeat.  Your hands stay clean and no smelly shells in the garbage.

However, it’s maybe not as much fun.  I hate it when he’s right!!!

Recipe:  makes 4 to 6 servings, according to Michele.   4 servings, according to me

1/3 cup olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

Pinch of crushed red pepper

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 ounces lump crabmeat (I used jumbo)

8 fresh basil leaves, torn (never cut) into bits

1 pound of spaghetti or linguine

  1.  Pour the oil into a large skillet.  Add the garlic cloves, and red pepper and cook over medium heat, until the garlic is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Remove garlic and set aside.
  2. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are softened and have released their juices, about 10 minutes.  I covered the tomatoes for half the cooking time.
  3. Gently stir in the crab and basil.
  4. Cook the spaghetti or linguine until al dente.  Take out a little of the cooking water and set aside (always a good idea).
  5. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.  Toss over high heat for 1 minute, adding a little water if you feel it is dry.  Serve immediately.

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Cousin Richard’s Vegetables on the Grill

grilled veggies plated closeup

I know that Labor Day has come and gone, but I can’t let grill season end without sharing what became my signature vegetable dish this summer.    Actually, I should say “dishes,” as I started to make just about every vegetable in this way.  Watching my cousin Richard prepare yet another delicious meal, mostly cooked on the outdoor grill, made me realize that he was on to something great. There’s no need to fuss over vegetables in the summer.  Simply wrap them in aluminum foil with a little salt, pepper, olive oil or butter, and then throw them on the grill for 15 to 20 minutes, while the rest of the meal is cooking.  Without a mess or bother, you have a wonderful side dish or two….or even more!  I guarantee you’ll be experimenting with every vegetable imaginable.  I have!

My two favorites are grilled corn and grilled fennel.  The hot grill brings out the flavors of these two vegetables in a way that’s hard to explain.  I prefer this to corn on the cob, and although I adore a fennel salad, this is even better.

So before the season is over, please give this a try.   Its absolutely delicious in all it’s simplicity.  Plus, it’s cleanup free!   That is unless you make Richard’s Summertime Pasta (in the blog archives) as a first course.   This pasta dish takes a simple summer meal to a new level.  Richard seems to have created a perfect summertime menu that is now a “family tradition.”

RECIPE:

4 ears of corn on the cob

3 fennel bulbs

salt and pepper

2 – 3  Tablespoons of butter

2 – 3 Tablespoons of olive oil

  1.  Strip the corn from the cob using a good knife or corn zipper.  Another cousin suggested to use a bundt pan to catch the kernels in a neat manner.  LOVE this idea!
  2. Slice the fennel into strips….you determine the thickness.
  3. Lay out two sheets of aluminum foil or use heavy duty if you have it.  Pile the corn onto the foil.  For 4 ears of corn, use 2 -3 Tablespoons of butter; 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.  Wrap up the sides  of the foil well.
  4. Lay out 2 more sheets of aluminum foil and add the sliced fennel.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.  Then drizzle with the oil.  Mix a little, and seal up the sides of the foil.
  5. Place foil packages on the grill over medium heat.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Make sure the grill is not too hot, as you don’t want to burn the bottom.
  6. Once ready to serve, open the packets and give a good stir.  Adjust for seasonings  and place in bowls if desired.   They look so nice in the open packets that you don’t even really need bowls!  It’s nice to keep it even more casual.  It’s up to you!

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Bev’s Mediterranean Salmon

Bev's salmon plated*?

At least once or twice a year, for the past 35 years , my friend Bev sends me a recipe in the mail (never email) that she absolutely knows I will love.  She is always 100% correct!  I have loved every recipe she has sent me, and they have over the years become “family favorites” that I make over and over.  From muffin recipes to pasta…from fish recipes to stews,  she “gets me.”  She knows what I like, and is willing to take the chance on a recommendation.  Food and Friendship is such a lovely combination.  For me, it means “love”……..the love of sharing; the love of caring.

I’ve been making Bev’s recipe for Mediterranean salmon for many years.  It’s easy enough for a quick mid-week meal, and yet elegant enough for entertaining. It looks beautiful when plated, and always receives enthusiastic “oohs and aahs” before it’s even been tasted. And the taste never disappoints. So often, a dish looks absolutely divine, and then your taste buds want to scream out in displeasure.  That won’t happen with this salmon.  You will enjoy every bite of the salmon with the delicately mingled flavors of tomatoes, olives, capers and zucchini.   It’s Mediterranean cuisine at it’s finest, which also means  it’s healthy.    The Mediterranean Diet has been touted by the medical  world as the best way to eat for your health and longevity.

So open a crisp bottle of white wine (or light red), and enjoy the “good life.”

I’ll be waiting with anticipation for my next recipe from Bev.  I believe it’s just about time.

Recipe:  serves 4

1/4 teaspoon  salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 (6 ounce) skinless salmon filets, about 1 inch thick  (I used one large piece of salmon)

Cooking spray  (or 2 TBSP olive oil, as I prefer)

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini

2 Tablespoons capers, undrained

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 (2 1/4 ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained *** (I used a mixture of mediterranean olives and pitted them.  Please do this.   It’s worth it.  I also doubled the amount of olives)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of the fish.
  3. Place fish in a single layer in an 11 x 7 inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray or *olive oil.
  4. Combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Stir to combine and spoon the mixture over the fish.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 22 minutes.

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