veggie

Zucchini with Mint is like Summer in a Bowl

Summertime is synonymous with eating light meals and grilling in the outdoors. In June of 2017, I visited Positano on the Amalfi Coast and dined at the famous Chez Black restaurant. As a side dish, I ordered zucchini marinated in vinegar and mint. It was light, delicious, and healthy. Today, I am sharing with you a similar version called Zucchine alle Scapece that is popular in Naples, Italy. Typically, the zucchini is sliced thin, and fried in peanut or corn oil, but in this recipe, I am grilling them for a healthier option. Not having to turn the stove on is also a great way to keep your house cool. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this dish has your name written all over it. Grab your apron, and let’s get cooking!

Difficulty level: Easy – Serves 3-4 as a side dish

      Ingredients: 

  • 3 zucchini cut lengthwise
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
  • Extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 handful of freshly chopped mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

    Preparation:

    1.Season zucchini with salt and pepper, liberally
    2. Drizzle with olive oil, mix well
    3. Pre-heat grill on medium high, and place the zucchini on a single layer
    4. Cover the grill, and cook for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender, turning occasionally.
    5. Let the zucchini cool off and cut them up in 2-3 pieces. Place them in a medium-sized bowl.
    6. Add vinegar, mint, garlic, and mix well.
    7. Drizzle with olive oil to finishZucchini in Naples, Italy Zucchini in Naples, Italy

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina's Kitchen

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina’s Kitchen

     

    I hope you will try this light and summery dish and share your thoughts with me. Until then, enjoy the summer!

    Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to Yours,
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier

    To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

    Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


    It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

Gina’s Eggplant Caponata

 

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant, also known as aubergine is probably my all-time favorite veggie. It’s so versatile and is used in many cuisines throughout the world. Today, I am sharing with you my eggplant caponata that I have been making for many years. I have tweaked it a little, to reflect the ingredients in the traditional version. It originated in Sicily and there are a few recipe variations. Traditionally it’s served with hard boiled eggs and crusty bread. Ideally, I recommend using green Sicilian olives, but to stay within budget, I use pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives. This recipe can be doubled for a larger crowd.

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish or 4-6 as an appetizer – Level of difficulty: Easy – Prepping time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut-up in cubes*
  • 1 – 1.25 tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 1/4 cup onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped *
  • 1/4 cup Pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 pinches of sugar (dissolved in vinegar)
  • pine nuts, optional
  • basil, cut into chiffonade for garnish

    Preparation:

    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper.
    2) In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil, sautee onions and celery for about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    3) Add eggplant, it will absorb the oil, it’s ok, just keep stirring to avoid burning for 2 minutes or so.
    4) Add tomato paste, brown until it caramelizes, another 2 minutes. Keep stirring.  Add tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar/sugar, pine nuts.
    5) Lower the flame to medium and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove.
    6) Serve in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with basil.

Wine pairing suggestion: A Nero d’Avola for red, or  Insolia for white wine lovers. Both grape varieties are indigenous to Sicily and would make a stunning pairing with the caponata.

Cook’s notes: 1) I used Pomi brand chopped tomatoes. If you want it to have more sauce, add more tomatoes.  You can certainly use fresh tomatoes. 2) Feel free to add more oil, if you need to. 3)  Buy the eggplant the day before or preferably the same day if possible to ensure freshness.

Buon Appetito!

Base recipe, method of cooking and photos
by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Healthier version of Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant, also called aubergine, or melanzane (in Italian) is so versatile, and by far one of my favorite veggies. I love to make it different ways, and enjoy experimenting with them. This time, I decided to make an eggless and breadcrumb-free eggplant parm, an Italian dish believed to have originated in the Southern part of Italy. The result of this dish is  surprisingly delightful. First and foremost,  make sure you pick very fresh eggplants, preferably on the day you are cooking them.  I realize that it’s  not always possible in today’s busy lives. If that’s the case, get it a day or two before cooking it. You do not want an eggplant that’s been sitting in your veggie bin for 2 weeks. I assure you, that will make a world of difference.  You want to look for an eggplant that is smooth, without any bruises, and firm to the touch. Parmigiana is a style/method of cooking, using  tomato sauce and  mozzarella cheese.

Eggplants

Eggplants

Broiled Eggplants

Broiled Eggplants

       Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplant cut lengthwise
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lots of olive oil ( make sure you have a full bottle on hand)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 basil leaves
  • 1 container chopped tomatoes 26.46 oz.  Pomi brand
  •  1/2 jar of Mid’s sauce or (about 16 oz of your favorite meatless tomato sauce)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  •  Parmigiano Reggiano, Parmesan cheese to taste

    Preparation:
    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, let them sit for 10 minutes. Place on a metal tray, drizzle them with olive oil and broil for about 7-8 minutes on each side.  Do this in 2 batches. Set aside.
    2) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
    3) In the meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, on medium-heat, heat 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Sautee the garlic for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, basil.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn the burner off and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
    4) Time to start mounting the eggplant as if you are making a lasagna. Smear some sauce on the bottom of a large glass casserole (Pyrex) pan, line up the eggplant (as shown on my photo) top with sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Repeat once more and finish with mozzarella. Cover with foil.
    5) Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover, and broil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Use a spatula. Hope you will try this delicious version of Eggplant Parmigiana. It has no breadcrumbs and no  eggs. However, it will soak up some olive oil (which is healthy, but beware of calories)

    Please check out my traditional eggplant recipe:  Chicken & Eggplant Parm recipe (chicken is optional) Notice, I use different sauce, that’s because I like to change things up. ———>  https://foodiewinelover.com/2015/08/17/chicken-eggplant-parmigiana/

    Cook’s note: Never place glass dish on the bottom of the oven rack. Use the second from the bottom.

    Wine pairing suggestions: Chianti, Chianti Classico or any medium-bodied red wine will work.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Perfectly Broiled Butternut Squash

Tis The Season for Butternut Squash! Everyone, including myself, always strive to get the perfect color on roasted butternut squash. I always bake them, but I am never fully satisfied the way they come out. I decided to broil them, and the result was magical. I ran out quickly, and left my son Peter-John in charge. He took over the kitchen, and turned them occasionally.  Upon returning home, they were already on the serving dish draining on paper towels.  I could not believe how beautiful and colorful they looked in such a short period. If you love your veggies, this delicious and nutritious side dish is for you.

Serves: 3-4  Degree of difficulty: Easy
butternut-squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of butternut squash, cubed
  •  Sea salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, de-stemmed, + more for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preparation:

  1. Place the oven shelf about 11 inches away from the burner.  Turn the broiler on high.

2. In the meantime, on a flat metal tray, scatter the butternut squash cubes in a single layer. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle 2-3  times with olive oil. I use an oil bottle spout to give me more control.

3. Place the tray with butternut squash  in the broiler.  The trick is to turn them occasionally, using a metal spatula (it doesn’t have to be one by one) for about 10 minutes , or until they obtain a golden brown color. Remove from the oven.

4.  Layer the bottom of a serving dish with some paper towels to soak up any excess oil, and plate the butternut squash. This step will prevent them from becoming soggy. Serve immediately. This was a lovely accompaniment to a red grouper, but it was so good, that it barely made it to the table.

image

I hope you will try this recipe in your kitchen, and share your experience with us. Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Foodiewinelover

 

 

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

Crumbled bacon

Crumbled bacon

Pasta Salad

IMG_3181

Pasta salad Mise-en-place

Pasta salad mise-en-place

 

This pasta salad makes the best summer side dish, and the best part of it, you can prepare it ahead of time. This salad goes well with grilled New York strips or skirt steaks. In this recipe I am using the elbow pasta shape, but fusilli or bow ties are great alternatives. Put on your apron and let’s get cooking!

This recipe yields a large bowl of pasta salad, but the recipe can be divided in half to feed fewer people. 

Serves: 10 – 15 as a side dish

Level of difficulty: Easy to medium

Prepping time from start to finish: 1 hour

Chilling time: 3-4 hours in the fridge

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 lb. pasta, elbow shape, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 lb. of bacon, crumbled
  • 4 boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, diced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise*
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsps. Mrs. Dash, Italian Medley, no sodium
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

Preparation:

1) Bring pasta water to a boil. Add a handful of salt. Cook pasta al dente as per package’s direction.

2) Drain pasta well and pour it into a large mixing bowl.

3) Add all the ingredients and mix well.

4) Cover and chill in the fridge for a at least 3-4 hours. The colder the salad, the tastier it will be, and this will allow the flavors to infuse nicely.

Upon serving, remove from the fridge and drizzle more olive oil to moisten the salad.

* If you don’t like mayonnaise, substitute it with more olive oil, and add some red wine vinegar. It will be similar to a vinaigrette dressing. Taste and adjust the spices as needed.

Wine pairing suggestion: Pink Flamingo Rose made with 100% Grenache produced by Vranken Pommery. 

This refreshing wine boasts a summery salmon color, and offers aromas and flavors of berries, strawberries, peach and apricot.

I hope you will make this delicious pasta salad to bring to your next picnic. Please let me know how it turned out!

Happy Cooking & Sipping!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier & Italian Wine Scholar Student (Prep course and Unit 1 completed)
Winner of 2019 Italian Wines “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award, held in Puglia, Italy
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