Mar 07 2012

Ciao Italia Lamb Shank Dinner – For The Love of Food Way

 Who doesn’t love Italian food? I do, but I am not Italian so I turned to the recipes of  the award winning chef;  Mary Ann Esposito of  Ciao Italia  to create an Italian For the Love of Food (FTLOF) menu. The goal of FTLOF project is to provide ideas and inspiration for eating more fruits and vegetables, the meal described below easily includes five servings of fruit and vegetables in one delicious dinner:

Eggplant Caponata

Anna Nurse’s Lamb Shanks in Tomato Sauce with Orecchiette

Green Beans with Almonds and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Whipped Ricotta Parfait with Cherries


I made a few modifications in the recipes to play up the fruits and vegetables,  and I made some suggestions about pasta portions for those of you who pay attention to carbohydrate content in meals.  You start with these ingredients:

 First Course: Eggplant Caponata


Eggplant Caponata

 Caponata is described as an eggplant appetizer but this recipe is so good I eat it warmed up as a side vegetable or I place a spoonful on top of lettuce to make a quick salad. It combines eggplant, tomato paste, capers, olives, celery, onions and a little bit of cocoa powder. I followed Mary Ann’s recipe except I could not find small eggplants so I substituted with 2 large eggplants, about 1 pound each. Oil is used to cook the vegetables, to cut calories I sprayed my pans with spay oil first, and added only 1/4 cup oil when cooking each batch of eggplant and an additional 1/4 cup when cooking the onions. In all, I used 1/2 cup peanut oil and 1/4 cup olive oil and saved 2,360 calories by not using a full 2 cups of oil. My recipe contains ( approximately) 18 calories per tablespoon or 293 calories per cup.


Lamb Shank Dinner

Lamb Shanks with Orecchiette and Greens Beans

 Mary Anne Esposito credits this recipe to Anna Amendedolara Nurse, she specifically recommends orecchiette pasta because the small, round shape catches the delicious tomato sauce. In Italy they serve the pasta as a first course followed by the lamb shanks. I served the lamb with the pasta  with a generous portion of the green beans, enough green beans to “fill half the plate”.

The lamb shank recipe calls for  4 meaty lamb shanks  I used two large ones and before serving I cut the meat off the bone.

Brown the lamb shanks evenly on all sides

 I followed the recipe exactly, I used the full 1/2 cup olive oil but in the second paragraph where it says “Discard all but 1/3 cup of the oil remaining in the sauté pan”, I drained all of the oil and still found there was enough to cook the garlic and the onion, saving about 1,000 calories and the sauce was FABULOUS! The recipe makes about 6 cups of sauce so you will probaly have leftovers, and each 1/2 cup portion counts as a serving of vegetables.

 A menu including pasta can be high inoth  calories and carbohydrate, and this is often a problem for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. When deciding on how much pasta and green beans to cook I recommend you prepare 1 cup green beans for every 2 ounce (about 1 cup cooked) portion of pasta, that way you keep calories down and nutrition up. Each cup of cooked pasta carries 200 calories, 1 cup of cooked green beans 34 calories. The green bean recipe calls for 2 pounds which yields about 8 cups cooked. I recommend you cook the full 2 pounds, you might have leftovers but they will be delicious. 


 Time for dessert

Whipped Ricotta Parfait with Cherries

 I used frozen, dark sweet cherries because fresh were not available, just thaw the frozen cherries  before you assemble the parfait and the dessert will still be wonderful.  I recommend you double the cherries called for to at least 1/2 cup per person.Instead of whole milk ricotta I use part-skim milk ricotta and since I increased the fruit I cut the amount of ricotta and cream I used by half.

This is a delicious meal, rich in vegetables and a wonderful way to enjoy the flavors of Italy. Go to Ciao Italy for recipes and to order Mary Ann Esposito’s cook books . Her recipes are well written, easy to follow and very good!

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