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May brings us two ideas for what we call fortified salads, i.e. salads that are nutritionally complete and therefore perfect as one-course meals for lunch in the office, at school or for dinner.

The rule applies that ingredients must be in season in order to maximise their nutritional contribution, so asparagus and mixed greens, as well as frozen edamame beans, will be the vegetable protagonists of the dishes.

The protein part of our salads is mainly of animal origin, being represented by grilled chicken and egg, not forgetting the contribution of edamame beans, an excellent source of plant protein.

As always, fibre is our best ally and is provided not only by vegetables, but also by buckwheat grains, an excellent alternative to rice and cereals containing gluten (for those who can eat them).

So here’s how to prepare reinforced salads that you can put in your lunch box for an absolutely perfect lunch out.

Discover more ideas for your salads here!

Buckwheat and asparagus salad

carbohydrates 24.48g for the whole serving

insalata-di-saraceno-e-asparagi

Ingredients for 1 serving

  • 4 asparagus
  • 40g buckwheat grains*
  • 1 egg
  • 15g Pecorino Romano cheese in very thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Cook buckwheat grains in lightly salted boiling water, then drain and set aside.
  2. Place 4 asparagus in a container suitable for microwave cooking and cook for 4 minutes at maximum power.
  3. Put a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan, break the egg into it and cook for a few minutes until the egg white is cooked.
  4. Assemble the salad by placing the buckwheat grains in a soup plate, add the asparagus cut in pieces; dress with a sauce prepared whisking a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  5. Lay the hot egg on top of the asparagus and complete with very thin slices of Pecorino Romano cheese and a grinding of pepper.insalata-di-saraceno-e-asparagi

Chicken and edamame salad

carbohydrates15.77g for the whole serving

insalata-di-pollo-ed-edamame

Ingredients for 1 serving

  • 120g chicken breast
  • 50g edamame beans
  • baby lettuce or mixed greens
  • 15g raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of soy milk*
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise*
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Boil the edamame beans in lightly salted water for a few minutes, then  throw them in cold water. Drain them and set them aside.
  2. Grill the chicken breast. Cut it into strips horizontally.
  3. Prepare the dressing by putting the mayonnaise, lemon juice and soy milk in a small bowl, mix well with a fork and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the desired amount of lettuce or mixed greens in a soup plate, add the edamame beans and lay the chicken on top. Season with the mayonnaise emulsion, then top with raisins and pumpkin seeds.

insalata-di-pollo-ed-edamame

Version with gluten of Fortified salads

These recipes contain only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for their version with gluten.

What vegetables await you in our April salads? Cauliflower, peas and leek will be the stars with the red touch of strawberries: find out how to prepare them.

Let’s start with an uncommon use of cauliflower: raw. Have you ever tried it? You will be surprised to discover that it is sweet and has a much more delicate smell than when cooked. It is in fact during cooking that the typical sulphurous smell develops, which often makes cauliflower not liked, especially by children. In the first salad, cauliflower is grated to make a tasty, micronutrient-rich couscous with lots of flavour and few calories.

My Quinoa salad, on the other hand, is perfect for a refill of plant protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free pseudo-cereal that has all 8 essential amino acids (i.e. those that must be taken in with food as they are not produced by our body) and therefore has a very similar nutritional profile to foods of animal origin. Moreover, due to its wealth of other micronutrients, it is considered a super-food whose consumption is strongly recommended as an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Remember to rinse quinoa before cooking to remove saponins, substances naturally present in many vegetables, which may cause irritation to mucous membranes, but are completely eliminated by a pre-cooking wash.

If you only have a few minutes available, see how to prepare Three five-minute salads!!

Cauliflower couscous with Radicchio variegato

carbohydrates 14g for the whole serving

cous-cous-di-cavolfiore-uvetta-e-fragole

Ingredients for 1 serving

  • 80g cauliflower
  • 40g radicchio variegato di Castelfranco
  • 15g raisins
  • 15g shelled walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 strawberry
  • Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Grate the cauliflower with a coarse-hole grater to obtain a couscous-like consistency.
  2. Wash, dry and cut the Radicchio into pieces.
  3. Assemble the salad by placing the radicchio on the bottom of the plate and the cauliflower couscous on top; season with salt and pepper, oil and traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, then complete by adding the raisins, nuts, seeds and finally the strawberry cut into thin slices.

Quinoa salad with leek and peas

carbohydrates 20.11g for the whole serving

insalata-di-quinoa-e-piselli

Ingredients for 1 serving

  • 25g quinoa (weighed raw)
  • 40g shelled fresh peas
  • 30g leek
  • 7g desalted capers
  • chopped basil and sage
  • sun-dried tomatoes*
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Rinse the quinoa under running water and cook it in 75g of lightly salted water for about 20 minutes or until it has absorbed all the water.
  2. Put a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the finely sliced leek and peas in it, adding a few tablespoons of water to cook them. Add desalted capers and chopped basil and sage. When the peas are almost cooked, add the quinoa and season with salt (if necessary) and pepper.
  3. Serve the quinoa topped with a few chunks of sun-dried tomatoes and basil leaves.

insalata-di-quinoa-e-piselli

Cous-cous-di-cavolfiore-uvetta-e-fragole

Version with gluten of April salads

The recipes contain only naturally gluten-free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for their version with gluten.

If you have been to Greece, you cannot have missed the Classic Mussakàs made with eggplants and meat sauce, a one-course meal rich dish that I thought I would revisit to create a lighter, vegetarian version: here is my
Vegetarian Mussakàs
.

This Vegetarian Mussakàs is the perfect substitute for Lasagna for the warmer months when light recipes rich in seasonal vegetables are preferred, but it is also loved by everyone in the family, including the little ones. It is also very useful for those who have to organise family meals, as it can be prepared in advance and then cooked with 30 minutes to spare.

If you don’t like peppers or find them indigestible, replace them with courgettes!

Remember that you can also prepare this recipe lactose-free by replacing the milk in the béchamel with vegetable stock: all other ingredients are lactose-free!

When you have eggplants in season, this recipe will be a dinner-saving one-course meal for every family need: enjoy!

mussakas-vegetariano

Vegetarian Mussakàs

9.26g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 6 servings

  • 1kg eggplants
  • 450g potatoes
  • 300g red pepper (or courgettes)
  • 200g tomato sauce
  • 150g carrots
  • 120g onions
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • breadcrumbs*
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • basil
  • sage
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

  • 350g milk
  • 35g brown rice flour*
  • 35g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30g extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Slice the eggplants and place them on a baking tin lined with parchment paper,  bake in a convection oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes.
  2. Boil the potatoes with their skins on until they are soft enough to be sliced.
  3. Prepare the vegetable ragout browning the garlic in a little oil, then add the diced carrots and peppers; season with chopped basil and sage, add the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare a béchamel sauce by mixing the rice flour with the oil, then gradually add the milk so that no lumps form and heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, add the Parmesan cheese, mix well and add salt to taste.
  5. Take a rectangular oven dish, form a layer of vegetable ragout, cover it with the wilted eggplants, the sliced potatoes, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and start the layers again: you should have two layers of aubergines and ragout and only one layer of potatoes. Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake the Mussakàs in a convection oven preheated to 190°C for 20-30 minutes until crispy.

mussakas-vegetariano

Version with gluten of Vegetarian Mussakàs

Replace gluten free breadcrumbs with standard breadcrumbs; the rest of the recipe is naturally gluten-free, so no adaptation is needed for the version with gluten.

 

 

When talking about white wine in the strip of land from Parma to Piacenza, the first thought is Malvasia because this grape, whether vinified to obtain a sparkling, still or raisin wine, gives rise to an Aromatic Malvasia that is perfect for dishes prepared with local ingredients, just like this Cous cous with lentil sauce.

Aromatic Malvasia: Emilia lifestyle

Malvasia is part of the Emilia everyday life and in the province of Piacenza, in September, this wine is celebrated at the Valtidone Wine Fest, four weekends dedicated to wine & food living, i.e. dedicated not only to the discovery of local wines, but also of typical gastronomic specialities and of the historical-cultural heritage.

To enrich the festival with new ideas for dishes to be paired with Malvasia Aromatica di Candia dei Colli Piacentini, the organisers asked the Italian Food Blogger Association to select 30 Italian Food&Wine Bloggers to create a recipe with the ingredients of a Mystery Box containing food products from Piacenza and a bottle of wine selected by the Strada dei Vini e dei Sapori dei Colli Piacentini involving its local wineries.

Did you see what my Mystery Box contained? My protagonist is a bottle of Malvasia Aromatica di Candia, which I am expected to pair with a recipe prepared using at least 2 of the following ingredients: Pancetta piacentina, Borgotaro Porcini mushrooms, Valtidone saffron, honey and shallots.

My Malvasia di Candia is produced by the Mossi 1558 Winery and bears a decidedly romantic name: Baciamano, i.e. hand-kissing, because it is gallant and sensual, just like this ancient gesture, characteristics that have enabled it to be awarded the Gold Medal by both The Wine Hunter and the Japan Women’s Wine Awards.

My recipe to be paired with Aromatic Malvasia

My recipe is the result of combining ingredients I generally use in the cooler months of the year with cous cous, a dish I love to enjoy in summer because it enables me not to use the oven and to prepare fast and tasty one-course meals. Since the perfect one-course meals for my children are prepared with pulses and vegetables, here is my culinary proposal to be paired with Malvasia Baciamano.

Its spicy aroma pairs perfectly with the notes of shallot and dried Porcini mushrooms. Its intense flavour with marked acidity complements this dish whose personality is enhanced by the unmistakeable sapidity of a super crispy Pancetta that completes the sensory experience of a cous cous that we can serve in any season of the year never feeling to have prepared something wrong.

Cous cous with lentil sauce and crispy Pancetta paired with Malvasia aromatica di Candia Baciamano

Cous cous with lentil sauce and crispy Pancetta paired with Malvasia aromatica di Candia Baciamano

Cous cous with lentil sauce

19.44g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

  • 400g tomato sauce
  • 200g Chickpea and red lentil Cous cous Bia*
  • 200g carrots
  • 150g lentils
  • 60g Pancetta piacentina*
  • 15g dried Porcini mushrooms
  • vegetable or meat stock*
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • dried oregano
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Prepare the cous cous adding 200g warm slightly salted water to the cous cous; leave to rest for about 15 minutes, then separate the cous cous grains well using a fork.
  2. Soak the Porcini mushrooms in lukewarm water.
  3. Boil the lentils in plenty of slightly salted water for about 25 minutes, then drain them.
  4. In a large pan, heat up 20g of extra virgin olive oil and brown the finely chopped shallot and the cloves of garlic. Add the carrots sliced in rounds and the soaked mushrooms in small pieces; allow to sauté for some minutes, then add totamo sauce and oregano and cook for 15 minutes. Finish adding the boiled lentils, some ladles of stock to cover the lentils with liquid, then cook for another 15 minutes or anyway until the lentils are perfectly cooked. Remove the cloves of garlic.
  5. Cut Pancetta into strips of the desired size; put it in a frying pan (better if a steel pan like the ones used to prepare amatriciana sauce) with a dribble of oil until the strips are perfectly crispy. Drain the strip from the fat that has melted.
  6. Serve the cous cous topping it with the lentil sauce and complete with the crispy Pancetta strips. Enjoy the recipe pairing it with a glass of Malvasia Baciamano.

Version with gluten of Cous cous with lentil sauce

This recipe contains only naturally gluten-free ingredients, however you may decide to replace the type of cous cous used.

Since the heat does not leave us this summer, I am constantly looking for cold recipes that can satisfy the palate, be healthy and above all be pleasantly refreshing, which is why I propose the Cream of peppers and lentils with anchovy croutons, this time paired with a fantastic wine!

In fact, a dear friend who knows my passion for wines gave me a bottle of Viognier Linea Ars Magna by Omina Romana vintage 2017, for which I wanted to create an ad hoc recipe. So here is my pairing because its intense and complex bouquet of aromatic herbs goes perfectly with the sweet scent of peppers, enlivened by the savouriness of anchovies and slivers of 36-month Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that masterfully reflect the mineral note that the wine draws from the volcanic soils where the vines grow.

The recipe is rich in fibre thanks to the peppers and lentils, it is also an excellent source of vitamins, the anchovies provide us with Omega 3, and the 36-month Parmesan cheese not only allows us to get calcium, but also makes the recipe suitable for those who are intolerant to dairy proteins: in short, a “supplement recipe”  as my friend Alessandra Bosetti, clinical dietician at the Buzzi Hospital in Milan, would call it, just like the Venere rice towers with almond cream and tomatoes.

When staying in the city while others are on holiday, the best way to treat oneself to a few moments of pleasure and relaxation is to indulge in good food and a glass of wine of those that remain in the memory file like photos taken in summer.

Omina romanaViognier

Cream of peppers and lentils with anchovy croutons

12.74g carbohydrates per 100g of Cream of peppers and lentils without croutons

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1kg bell peppers (2 red and 2 yellow)
  • 100g hulled lentils
  • 2 slices of gluten-free wholemeal bread**
  • 30g Parmigiano Reggiano 36 months old
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • chili
  • salt and pepper
  • edible flowers for decoration

** Ingredients specific for celiacs

Preparation of Cream of peppers and lentils

  1. Clean the peppers, cut them in half, remove the stalk, seeds and white filaments, then cut them into quarters and place in the oven under the grill at 200°C until the skin is slightly dark. Seal the peppers in a paper bag and, when cold, peel and set them aside.
  2. Boil the lentils in lightly salted water until cooked: with hulled lentils it will take about 15 minutes. Drain and leave them to cool.
  3. Place a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, melt the anchovies drained from oil and when melted, add the diced wholemeal bread and toast it well on all sides.
  4. Now prepare the cream by putting the peeled peppers and lentils in a blender and when you have obtained a smooth and even cream, add salt, pepper and chilli.
  5. Divide the cold cream into 4 bowls, sprinkle the surface with Parmesan shavings and the anchovy croutons, then top with edible flowers.

crema di peperoni e lenticchie

Version with gluten of Cream of peppers and lentils with anchovy croutons

For the gluten-free version of the recipe, replace the gluten-free wholemeal bread with standard bread.

 

Quinoa surprises are a way for me to use vegetables, definitely my favourite ingredients! For each season, we have a great variety of them, allowing us to indulge in their preparation. Yet, sometimes there is a lack of ideas for preparing something tasty in front of which the kids do not turn up their noses.

Round courgettes are loved by young and old alike because they are perfect for filling with anything we like, so mine is just one of hundreds of possible filling solutions.

The version prepared with quinoa, one of Latin America’s super foods (see its history) also popular in our country due to its high protein, Omega 6 and Omega 3 content, makes the recipe a perfect one-course meal for both lunch and dinner. Personally, I prepared the recipe in a vegan version, i.e. without adding melted cheese, and offered it for dinner to my hungry family members, and Gaia’s blood sugar behaved very well throughout the night, which made us enjoy the dish even more.

Quinoa surprises   

carbohydrates 6.2g per 100g

Ingredients

  • 4 large round courgettes (total weight when emptied 1kg)
  • 300g tomato sauce
  • 120g celery
  • 90g carrots
  • 80g quinoa (cooked in 240g water)
  • 70g shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • chili
  • cheese cubes melting (optional)

Preparation

  1. Put quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse it thoroughly, then pour it in a small pan with three times its own weight of water. Slightly salt the water, put everything on the heat and cook the quinoa for about 15 minutes with the lid on until it has completely absorbed the water. Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
  2. Take the round courgettes, cut off the top part so that the courgettes are divided into 2 parts: a small one at the top and the large part underneath from which you will remove the pulp (you can use this to make vegetable soups). Sprinkle the inside of the courgettes with salt, place them with their tops on the side on a baking tray covered with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Once taken out of the oven, remove the water that will have formed inside the courgettes, then set them aside while you prepare the filling.
  3. Slice the shallot, put it in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil together with the garlic clove, then add the tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Put a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté the diced celery and carrot; season with salt and pepper. Now season the quinoa with the tomato sauce and sautéed vegetables; season with salt, pepper and chilli.
  5. Fill the courgettes with the quinoa, pressing it lightly into them. If you like, you can put a few cubes of cheese melting on top of the quinoa before covering each courgette with its own cap (personally, I did not add anything because I did not want to add cheese to this meal), then bake in a hot oven at 200°C for about ten minutes or for 5 minutes under the grill.
  6. Serve the courgettes hot with a drizzle of olive oil.
Le zucchine ripiene di verdure e quinoa

Courgettes stuffed with vegetables and quinoa

Version with gluten of Quinoa surprises

The recipe contains only naturally gluten-free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.