Mediterranean Dishes

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

I recently came up with this dish while trying out a vegetarian diet for a few weeks. Whether or not you are a vegetarian or you are just trying to eat less meat, this dish is delicious. You can put it together in about 20 minutes, making it quick and easy as well. I love artichokes, so I was looking for a new way to use them. This is definitely a winner.  It has become a regular on my table. Enjoy!

1/2 box of penne cooked al dente, drained and save about 1 cup of the pasta water.
The sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts, cut into eights (discard any tough outer leaves)
1 15 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, chopped fine
1 large clove of garlic, or two small ones
1/2 package fresh spinach - about  2 cups semi packed - washed and shredded
1 can cannelloni beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves or a couple tablespoons pesto
red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon or more)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for sauteing - about 1/4 cup
Parmesan cheese - about 1/3 cup

Saute the onion over medium low in a large pan until soft. Add garlic and red bell pepper and red pepper flakes and saute a minute or two. Add tomatoes and artichokes and cook a couple of minutes. Add beans and pesto if using and salt and pepper. (Easy on the salt because the cheese is salty.) Off heat. Add cooked pasta to sauce and mix until well coated, adding enough of the pasta water to coat. Add spinach and basil  and mix. Add Parmesan cheese a little at a time, stirring to make sure all the pasta is equally cheesed. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

Lately I've been addicted to this pesto, tossing it with thin spaghetti and topping my pasta with grilled shrimp. So yummy! As always, you can adjust the ingredients amounts to your liking.

Spinach-Basil Pesto

1/2 cup Fresh Basil
1 2/3 cups Fresh Spinach leaves
2 large cloves garlic or 3 small cloves of garlic
1/2 cup Fresh Parmesan cheese, broken into small cubes
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
Zest of 1/2 a Lemon
1/2 cup toasted Walnuts, cooled
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil , plus more for storing.

Toast the Walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn. Immediately put them in a food processor and let them cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Meanwhile, wash and steam basil and Spinach and squeeze dry with a paper towel. Chop garlic roughly and set aside. Zest 1/2 the lemon. Set aside.

Pulse the walnuts in the food processor until coarsely ground. You don't want them too fine. Add the remaining ingredients and the lemon juice. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure you have an even consistency. I like my pesto a little rustic so I don't over process it.

To store, I divide the pesto into small Tupperware. Cover with a film of olive oil so that the pesto doesn't turn dark. Serve over pasta (mix with a little pasta water) or use in your favorite lasagna recipe ( mix with the ricotta cheese) or baked fish or chicken, or mix with tomatoes for a delicious topping for bruschetta. The uses of Pesto are endless. Enjoy!

Greek Salad

Romaine lettuce, torn into bite side pieces. About 1/2 a head.
Finely sliced red onion, a handful
Finely sliced red bell pepper, a handful
1 Cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
4 Ripe plum tomatoes, cut into chunks
Feta cheese, crumbled about 2 ounces
1/2 14 ounce can baby artichoke hearts, quartered.
Garbanzo beans (optional) 1 small can, drained

1/4 Cup good quality Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 Teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Teaspoonon crumbled feta cheese

Mix dressing ingredients together and let sit while you prepare salad. Remove garlic from dressing. Taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed, but keep in mind the feta on the salad adds saltiness too. Toss salad with dressing right before serving.
Minetrone Soup

Chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, enough to cover veggie by about three inches - about 32 ounces
Dried herbs - (about a tsp each) parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, thyme and 1 bay leaf
Potato, skinned and diced (I used one red one)
Carrots, skinned and diced (I used two)
Celery, diced (I used about 1/2 cup chopped)
Onions, diced (I used 1/2 medium onion)
Garlic clove, minced (I used one)
Kidney beans, I used about 1/2 15 oz can)
Lima beans (I used frozen ones)\ (I used about 2/3 cup)
Green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces (I used frozen ones) or use zucchini (I didn't have any.)
(I used about 2/3 cup)
Canned or fresh chopped tomatoes, (I used about 2/3 cup)
Greens such as Kale, Swiss chard or Spinach, 1-2 cups, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsps tomato paste (I used 2 Tbsp)
Sugar, about 1/4  - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Sauté onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil. Sprinkle with dried herbs and salt and pepper. Add diced potatoes, garlic, and tomatoes. Stir to coat veggies and let simmer a minute or two. Add broth, tomato paste, sugar, kidney beans, lima beans and green beans. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. Let simmer about 30 minutes or until veggies and lima beans are tender and cooked through.  Check occasionally; you may need to add more broth or water. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired.
Fabulous Tuna Salad Recipe (With a Mediterranean Twist) Serves 1 or 2

1 can solid, albacore tuna
handful of finely chopped red onion
juice of half of lemon or lime
splash of good quality olive oil, about 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of salt
about 1/4 cup finely diced tomato (I usually use one plum tomato)
1/4 cup, more or less of mayonaise

Drain tuna well and put in a bowl. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over it, add the olive oil and let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve as a filling in celery sticks, over crackers or toasted bread.

Mom's Green Beans - 4-6 servings

Green beans - 1 package fresh or one bag frozen or 1 large can (32oz)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion, preferable Peruvian or Vidalia chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley or a handful of fresh
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or a handful of fresh
2 plum tomatoes chopped
2-3 eggs - beaten well
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup or so water, vegetable broth or chicken broth if using fresh green beans
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sauteing

Chop green beans into small pieces - about 1/4 inch long. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned and caramelized. Add herbs and garlic and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chopped beans and mix together.
If using fresh beans add a little water or broth and cover and cook beans until tender, about 15 minutes. Make sure all the moisture has been absorbed.
When the beans are tender, add chopped tomato and salt and pepper. Easy on the salt because the cheese is salty. Add the eggs and let them set for a few seconds. Then mix in the Parmesan cheese, little by little into the eggs so that the cheese melts into the egg as it's cooking. Check the seasonings for salt and pepper. Serve.

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