Undiscovered gems of Italian cuisine: these Italian dishes, often ignored in American kitchens, will surprise you with their knockout taste and ease of preparation

Undiscovered gems of Italian cuisine: these Italian dishes, often ignored in American kitchens, will surprise you with their knockout taste and ease of preparation – Healthy Food In A Flash

Jack Bishop

WHEN MOST OF US THINK of Italian food, we think of pasta with rich sauces, lasagna, and gooey cheese pizza. But Italy has a lighter side; there are countless other Italian dishes based on beans, grains, and vegetables that are equally delicious. Ingredients like mushrooms, garlic, and greens add flavor without weighing you down. These vegetarian dishes add variety to your diet and are easy to prepare in 30 minutes or less. Here are seven of my favorites.

Baked White Beans

with Garlic and Sage

SERVES 4

White beans are a Common part of the

Tuscan diet, especially when seasoned

with sage and garlic. In this

version, the beans are moistened with

a bit of vegetable broth that has been

flavored with tomato paste. A thick

layer of bread cubes (either fresh or

stale) tops the beans. You’ll have a

hearty main course after only 15 minutes

baking time. Add a leafy salad to

complete the meal.

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 15-ounce cans white beans,

drained and rinsed

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

8 fresh sage leaves, minced

Salt and ground black pepper

4 ounces hearty bread cut into

1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin

olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk

broth and tomato paste together in

measuring cup or small bowl.

2. Stir together broth mixture, beans,

garlic, sage, and salt and pepper to taste

in 1 1/2-quart casserole dish.

3. Toss bread cubes, oil, and salt and

pepper to taste in medium bowl. Sprinkle

bread cubes evenly over beans.

4. Bake until beans are hot and bubbling

and bread cubes are golden brown

and crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve

immediately.

PER SERVING: 444 CALORIES, 23 G PROTEIN,

9 G FAT, 2 G SATURATED FAT, 70 G CARBOHYDRATES,

15 G FIBER, 178 MG SODIUM, 20% CALCIUM

Stewed Mushrooms over

Porcini Mashed Potatoes

SERVES 4

If possible, use at least two kinds of

mushrooms in the stew. Chanterelles,

creminis, oysters, and shiitakes are all

good choices.

1 ounce dried porcini

mushrooms

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled

and cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped fine

2 teaspoons minced fresh

oregano leaves

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms,

stemmed and sliced thick

Ground black pepper

3/4 cup white wine

1. Place porcini mushrooms in small

bowl and cover with 1 cup hot tap water. Set

aside until softened, about 15 minutes. Lift

mushrooms from liquid with fork and chop.

Strain liquid through sieve lined with paper

towel or coffee filter to trap dirt. Reserve

strained soaking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, place potatoes in large

saucepan and add water to cover by about

2 inches and salt to taste. Bring to a boil,

reduce heat, and cook briskly until potatoes

are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the

potatoes and return to saucepan over warm

burner. Add 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 cup strained

porcini soaking liquid, and salt to taste.

Mash until smooth.

3. While potatoes are simmering, heat

remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet.

Add onion and oregano and saute over

medium-high heat until onion has softened,

about 2 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms and

season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook,

stirring often, until mushrooms are lightly

browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and

chopped porcini and simmer until mushrooms

are tender and liquid has mostly

evaporated, about 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

4. Divide mashed potatoes among 4 soup

or pasta bowls. Spoon some mushrooms

over each portion of potatoes and serve

immediately.

PER SERVING: 276 CALORIES, 7 G PROTEIN,

8 G FAT, 1 G SATURATED FAT, 42 G CARBOHYDRATES,

6 G FIBER, 20 MG SODIUM, 4% CALCIUM

Chickpea Patties

with Arugula Salad

SERVES 4

Chickpeas are especially popular in

southern Italy. They are often ground

with spices and herbs and turned into

little patties. Here, I saute the patties in

olive oil and serve them over arugula.

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained

and rinsed

1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 cups packed arugula leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Place chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin,

and hot red pepper flakes in work bowl of

food processor. Process, scraping down

sides of bowl as needed, until smooth.

Scrape mixture into medium bowl and stir

in flour and salt to taste. Shape mixture into

eight 3-inch patties.

2. Heat oil in nonstick skillet large enough

to hold patties in single layer. Add patties

and saute over medium heat until golden

brown on both sides, about 6 minutes.

3. While patties are cooking, place

arugula in medium bowl, drizzle with lemon

juice, sprinkle with salt to taste, and toss

gently. Divide arugula among 4 individual

plates.

4. Once patties are cooked, place 2

on each plate on top of salad and serve

immediately.

PER SERVING: 452 CALORIES, 21 G PROTEIN,

13 G FAT, 1 G SATURATED FAT, 67 G CARBOHYDRATES,

13 G FIBER, 31 MG SODIUM, 18% CALCIUM

Lentils with Sauteed Vegetables

SERVES 4

Lentils with sauteed onions, carrots, and

celery make a hearty, comforting winter

meal. Serve with a steamed vegetable or

leafy salad.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped fine

2 medium carrots, peeled and

chopped fine

2 medium celery stalks,

chopped fine

2 teaspoons minced fresh

rosemary leaves

2 15-ounce cans lentils, drained

and rinsed

2 tablespoons minced fresh

parsley leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions,

carrots, celery, and rosemary and saute over

medium heat until vegetables are tender

and nicely browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

2. Add lentils and 1/2 cup water and cook

until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir

in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serve

immediately.

PER SERVING: 347 CALORIES, 20 G PROTEIN,

8 G FAT, 1 G SATURATED FAT, 52 G CARBOHYDRATES,

19 G FIBER, 37 MG SODIUM, 8% CALCIUM

Polenta Pie with Kale

SERVES 6

Polenta and kale taste great together

when they’re baked into a firm, sliceable

pie. Because most cooks don’t own an

extra-small baking dish, I designed this

recipe for an eight-inch pan, which yields

six servings. You can refrigerate and

reheat extra portions, wrapped in foil.

Although this dish takes a little more than

30 minutes, half the time is unattended

baking or resting time.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups instant polenta

1/2 pound kale, tough stems

discarded, leaves chopped

(about 6 cups)

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1. Adjust oven racks to middle and top

positions and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Brush 1 tablespoon oil over bottom and

sides of 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Meanwhile, bring 5 cups water to a boil

in large saucepan. Stir in salt. Reduce heat

to medium-low and add polenta in slow,

steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent

lumps from forming. Stir in kale with

wooden spoon. Cook, stirring constantly

with wooden spoon, just until kale wilts,

about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and remaining

tablespoon of oil.

3. With spatula, scrape polenta mixture

into greased baking dish and smooth top.

Bake on middle rack until firm, about 15

minutes. Transfer baking dish to top rack

and turn oven to broil. Broil until golden

brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan

from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Cut into

squares and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 184 CALORIES, 5 GPROTEIN, 6 G FAT,

1 G SATURATED FAT, 30 G CARBOHYDRATES, 4 G FIBER,

395 MG SODIUM, 10% CALCIUM

Chard and Red Kidney Bean

Stew with Raisins and

Caramelized Onions

SERVES 4

In Italy, this recipe would be made with

red-and-pink-speckled cranberry beans

or rust-colored borlotti beans. Neither of

these beans is available canned, so I’ve

chosen red kidney beans, which are

similar in color, texture, and flavor to borlotti.

For an attractive meal, use rainbow

chard (with yellow, orange, and pink

stalks). Serve the stew with slices of

bruschetta (toasted bread rubbed with a

garlic clove and brushed with olive oil) or

hunks of crusty bread.

1 1/2 pounds chard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced thin

Salt

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup raisins

1 15-ounce can red kidney beans,

drained and rinsed

Ground black pepper

1. With knife, cut away fleshy stalks from

chard leaves. Trim bottoms from stalks

and then wash stalks well. Cut stalks into

3/4-inch lengths; set aside. Wash and shake

leaves dry. Coarsely chop leaves and set

aside.

2. Heat oil in large saute pan over

medium-high heat. Add onions, chard

stalks, and a pinch or two of salt and saute

until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, and

cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.

3. Add chard leaves and raisins, cover,

and cook until chard leaves are slightly

wilted, about 2 minutes. Add kidney beans

and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook, stirring

once or twice, until chard is tender and

beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve

immediately.

PER SERVING: 277 CALORIES, 13 G PROTEIN,

8 G FAT, 1 G SATURATED FAT, 43 G CARBOHYDRATES,

12 G FIBER, 308 MG SODIUM, 12% CALCIUM

Portobello and Roasted Red

Pepper Sandwiches

SERVES 4

If you stud the mushrooms with garlic

and rosemary, the seasonings won’t fall

off when the mushrooms are cooked.

Use only the rosemary leaves, not the

woody stems. The juices from the mushrooms

and peppers moisten the bread so

there’s no need for any sandwich spread.

4 medium portobello mushrooms

(about 1 pound), stems discarded

and caps wiped clean

4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups stemmed arugula leaves,

washed and thoroughly dried

8 thick slices hearty bread

8 ounces drained jarred roasted red

peppers, cut into thin strips

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position

(about 6 inches from heating element)

and preheat broiler.

2. Use paring knife to make 5 or 6 small

incisions in smooth side of mushroom caps.

Stuff garlic slices and rosemary leaves into

these incisions.

3. Combine vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper

to taste in shallow baking dish just large

enough to hold mushrooms in single layer.

Add mushrooms and marinate, turning

occasionally, for 5 minutes.

4. Place dish with mushrooms under

broiler. Cook, turning several times, until

lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

5. Divide arugula among 4 slices of

bread. Place one mushroom on top of

arugula on each slice of bread. Arrange

some pepper strips over each mushroom.

6. Dip one side of remaining 4 slices of

bread in mushroom juices in baking dish.

Place these slices, moistened side down,

on top of filling to make 4 sandwiches. Cut

in half and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 312 CALORIES, 10 G PROTEIN,

11 G FAT, 2 G SATURATED FAT, 46 G CARBOHYDRATES,

4 G FIBER, 411 MG SODIUM, 5% CALCIUM

Jack Bishop is the food editor of Natural Health and the author of several cookbooks.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group