Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

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Lemon Roasted Asparagus

By Barbara Beltrami

With the spring holidays falling simultaneously this year, it’s nice to share recipes that are appropriate for either Easter or Passover dinner. And with meat becoming less and less the centerpiece for these occasions and vegetables becoming more and more the main attraction, the old boiled and baked versions need some updating. Adding lemon and/or herbs is one way to make those veggies more interesting; combining and roasting them is another. And while all veggies can be tweaked and turned into wonderful accompaniments and features for the holidays, because it is spring, I like to focus on the seasonal ones. The following recipes are all oven done and can be cooked right along with a roast.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 shallots, diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Lay asparagus in greased shallow nonreactive baking pan. In a small bowl whisk together remaining ingredients, drizzle over asparagus and toss to coat well. Roast until asparagus is tender but still bright green, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to warm platter and drizzle any remaining juices over top. Serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish. 

Roasted Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large zucchini, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large eggplant, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped

4 medium tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients together in a large baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and, scraping and stirring 2 or 3 times, bake for 30 minutes or until all veggies are tender. Remove foil and roast another 10 to 15 minutes until slightly brown. Transfer to a warm dish and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

Tarragon Roasted Carrots and Fennel

 YIELD: Makes 8 servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch diagonal slices

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch wedges

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place carrots and fennel in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, tarragon, salt and pepper and pour over veggies; toss thoroughly to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until tender; remove foil and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until slightly brown on top. Transfer to warm platter and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

 New Potato Pancake with Green Onions

 YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

 INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced very thin

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously grease 9-inch iron skillet or round baking pan. In a large bowl, toss together the potato slices, onion, oil, salt and pepper and turn into skillet or baking pan. Smooth out mixture so all potato slices are lying flat. Bake until potatoes are tender and bottom of mixture is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat broiler; slide pan under broiler and cook until top is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove, loosen sides and bottom with spatula and invert onto warm serving platter or leave right side up, if desired and top with parsley. Serve warm or hot with meat, poultry or fish.

By Barbara Beltrami

Years ago my friend told me about how she used baked wonton wrappers as little pastry cups to hold all sorts of fillings and served them as hors d’oeuvres. And what a clever idea it turned out to be. Although doing that wasn’t her own idea … she had gotten it from another friend…whoever originally dreamed up such a convenient and elegant idea for hors d’oeuvres deserves some sort of prize. Since the time my friend shared the idea with me, these little one or two-bite gems have seen my guests and me through many a happy hour. The concoctions you can fill them with are endless, but here are some of my standbys.

Basic Wonton Wrapper Cups

YIELD: Makes 12 cups

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

12 wonton wrappers

2 tablespoons oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat muffin tin  with nonstick cooking spray. Press a wonton wrapper gently into each muffin cup, taking care to press firmly against sides and bottom. Brush with oil. Bake 4 to 5 minutes until golden and crisp. As soon as cool enough to handle, remove from muffin tin and place on rack or cool platter. Serve with desired filling.

Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

3 to 4 large sweet Italian sausages, finely crumbled

1 frying pepper, seeded and finely chopped

12 baked wonton cups

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium skillet heat oil over medium heat; add onion, sausage and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and sausage is brown, about 7 minutes. With slotted spoon remove from skillet and set aside to keep warm or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. (If refrigerating, reheat before filling cups.) Preheat oven to 375 F. Place cups back in muffin tin or on baking sheet, fill with hot or reheated sausage mixture, sprinkle cheese on top of filling and bake just until cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Asian Shrimp Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts

1 tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage

12 baked wonton cups

12 medium cooked shrimp, tail removed

 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ cup sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine the sesame oil, peanuts, vinegar, one tablespoon of the peanut oil, soy sauce, honey and red cabbage. In another medium bowl toss together the shrimp, chili sauce, remaining tablespoon peanut oil and Sriracha sauce. Evenly divide the cabbage mixture among 12 wonton cups, top each with a shrimp and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with cocktails or wine.

Chicken Tarragon Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Chicken Tarragon Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

One boneless chicken breast, cooked and finely chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 leaves bibb lettuce, torn in half

12 baked wonton cups

12 slices cherry tomato 

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients except lettuce and tomato. Line each wonton cup with half a lettuce leaf, then divide chicken mixture evenly among cups. Top each with a tomato slice. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Artichokes

By Barbara Beltrami

If they had a beauty contest for vegetables, I think the artichoke would win. It’s such a pretty veggie, so flower-like and mysterious with its closed leaves and well-hidden heart deep in its center. Actually a member of the thistle family, it is more specifically known as a globe artichoke and unfortunately is as difficult to find as it is to prepare, but well worth the effort ultimately.

A good artichoke feels heavy, its leaves are tightly closed and squeak when you squeeze it. Because it is such a special veggie, it can be steamed and eaten with a simple lemon and butter sauce; on the other hand, because it has such an interesting construction, it lends itself beautifully to a breadcrumb, garlic and olive oil stuffing in between the leaves. Or when in Rome or not in Rome, do as the Romans do and braise it in white wine, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and season it with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Prepping and Steaming an Artichoke

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of one whole lemon

4 globe artichokes

4 slices lemon

4 garlic cloves

1 fresh bay leaf

DIRECTIONS:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and lemon juice; as you prepare the artichokes as follows, place them in the lemon water to keep them from turning brown. With a kitchen scissor, cut off the thorny tips of the outer leaves. Using a serrated knife slice about 1 inch off the tip of the artichoke. Pull off any small leaves at the base near the stem. Cut off an inch or so at the bottom of the stem, and using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin.

Alternatively all but an inch or so of the stem can be removed and peeled and cooked separately. Gently prying the leaves open, run the artichoke under cold water. Set up a pot large pot with about 3 inches water and a steamer basket. Place the lemon, garlic and bay leaf in the water and bring it to a boil; stand the artichokes in the steamer basket, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until outer leaves can be easily pulled off. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature with melted butter or hollandaise sauce.

Eating an artichoke

Pull off a leaf; gripping it between your thumb and forefinger, dip it in butter or sauce.  Bite down on leaf and scrape away tender pulp with your front teeth. Discard leaf. Continue with each leaf until you get to the tender inner leaves with the purple tips; eat only the light-colored parts. With a spoon or knife, scrape out and discard the fuzzy inedible choke that covers the heart, which is the best part of all and well worth all that preliminary work. Cut the heart into quarters and dip it into the sauce. Enjoy.

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, parsley, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. With the heel of your hand, press down on artichokes to force leaves to separate and open a little. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions and stuff each artichoke between leaves and in central cavity; drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil, place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until browned and tender. Eat as in Eating an Artichoke but be sure to scrape away and discard fuzzy choke. Serve with rustic Italian bread and a tomato and mozzarella salad.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

By Barbara Beltrami

OK, so it’s officially spring, and I’m thinking of working up a feast to fete Demeter who forced old Zeus to send Persephone back from the underworld. Frankly, I don’t know what we would do if he hadn’t struck that bargain with Pluto. Amid the fanfare of daffodil trumpets it is time to pay homage to Persephone’s return to Demeter and the regeneration of our world, to hail with delight the little sprouts that are harbingers of the greening of Mother Earth.

Long before I clean closets, wash windows or don my gardening gear, I change menus, imperceptibly at first, but soon in my pantry lumpy root veggies give way to green sproutish things like asparagus and artichokes while cabbages and beans relinquish their staple status to tender green onions and peas. Soups still simmer on my stove top, but they’re more likely to be potages of spring leeks and new potatoes than hefty minestrones. Pastas always stay, but sauces become lighter, less robust.

The minute I see the first basket of berries I swear off apples and pears; I put away the stock pot and clean up the grill and exchange the bittersweet in my vases for pussy willows.  So let the elysian games begin! Nothing but the best to honor Mother Earth. If I were to actually cook a dinner honoring the rites of spring here’s what it would be:

Carpaccio of Fresh Salmon

Spaghettini with Fresh Asparagus Puree

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Mustard Glaze

New Potatoes, Braised Leeks

Garden Salad with Spring Onion Vinaigrette

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 to 1½ pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound spaghettini

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, steam asparagus until tender and just at the point of turning a yellowish green. Cut off asparagus tips; reserve. In a food processor, puree asparagus stems, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Cook spaghettini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, transfer pureed asparagus to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until gently bubbling. Drain pasta, transfer to serving bowl and toss with puree. Scatter reserved tips on top. Serve hot or warm with a chilled dry white wine.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 heaping pint fresh strawberries

8 eggs, separated

½ cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons kirschwasser or Chambord liqueur

Butter for greasing soufflé dishes

Confectioners’ sugar

½ pint fresh raspberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Hull, wash and drain strawberries; place in bowl of food processor and puree till very smooth. Scrape puree into a large bowl, add egg yolks, half cup sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Beat and blend thoroughly.

Generously grease bottoms and sides of 1½-cup capacity soufflé dishes. Beat egg whites until stiff; beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar, then fold into strawberry mixture. Spoon equal portions of mixture into prepared dishes, place on baking sheet and bake 7 minutes. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake 7 minutes more.

Serve hot sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, garnished with fresh raspberries and accompanied by crisp vanilla wafers.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s been a new development in our kitchen. It used to be that I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen and my husband did the pots and pans. But lately I find myself doing the pots, or most of them, too. I think it’s because we recently got new cookware and, the control freak that I am, I want to keep them looking new and shiny, so I do them myself. That has led to another interesting development, though. In the interest of self-preservation, I’ve started to lean toward one-pot recipes, and of course I’ve gravitated toward the most obvious ones … those with chicken. Here are two I’ve tried that I think you’ll like too. They both go nicely with a tossed salad, but then, of course, there’s that bowl to wash.

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ tablespoon ground cumin

½ tablespoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 frying pepper, seeded and diced

Two 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, lightly drained

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 scallions, trimmed, washed and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and rub into both sides of chicken. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; brown the chicken, turning once, until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from skillet; set aside to keep warm. In same pan, stirring constantly, cook onion and peppers over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add beans, corn, and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until liquid is evaporated. Place in serving bowl and toss with vinegar, cilantro and scallions; add more salt and pepper to taste. Slice chicken and place over mixture. Serve hot or warm with green salad and rustic bread, if desired.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

Roasted Lemon Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large lemons

One 3½- to 4-pound chicken, cut up

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Squeeze the juice and scrape the pulp from one lemon. Cut the other lemon into 8 slices. In a shallow roasting or baking pan, toss together the chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion, oil, lemon juice and pulp, oregano, salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Place a lemon slice on each chicken piece. Roast, turning the veggies once or twice, until carrots and potatoes are tender and chicken is golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Serve hot with a green salad, if desired.

Irish Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

‘Tis a challenge to write about St. Patrick’s Day without resorting to the clichéd corned beef and cabbage. Sure and there are other Irish dishes that can also celebrate the wearin’ o’ the green.

There’s colcannon boiled potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter and salt and pepper. Then there’s shepherd’s pie, a dish as hearty as they come, made with ground meat and veggies and topped with a mashed potato crust. I’d never made colcannon before, but after looking up a few recipes, it was easy to come up with my own version. I dug up shepherd’s pie from deep in my recipe files where I’d forgotten all about it and have happily restored it to my current repertoire. But I think my favorite is Irish cream, a whiskey blend with cream and an alcohol by volume content of 15 to 20 percent that will put green beer to shame.

Colcannon

 

Colcannon

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered

¼ pound unsalted butter

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed and thinly sliced

¼ large head cabbage, shredded

1¾ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan over medium heat boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Meanwhile in another large saucepan melt half the butter over medium heat, add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until soft; add half-and-half, stir and bring to simmer. Add potatoes, two tablespoons of the remaining butter and salt and pepper; stir and coarsely mash whole mixture. Transfer to serving bowl; melt final two tablespoons butter and drizzle over top.  Serve hot with fish, meat or poultry.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled in salted water until very tender

¼ pound unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup diced carrots

1½ pounds ground beef

½ cup vegetable or beef broth

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. While potatoes are boiling, melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Add the broth and continue to cook, covered, over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in thawed peas and season with salt and pepper. Mash potatoes with remaining butter. Spread meat and vegetable mixture in an 8×13-inch greased baking dish; spread potatoes on top to form a crust; bake until mashed potatoes turn slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot with a crisp green salad.

Irish Cream

Irish Cream

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup heavy cream

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1¾ cups Irish whiskey

½ cup coffee liqueur

¼ cup chocolate liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with hot coffee, over ice or with crispy cookies such as biscotti or wafers. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

I heard a quote the other day. Unfortunately I don’t know its source, but it’s too good not to share. It goes something like this: “There will be peace when everyone in the world has enough noodles to eat.” And it occurred to me that noodles are one of those foods that cross so many cultures around this war-torn world. Call it what you will … udon or tagliatelle or nudel or cabeza, or lokshen, the noodle is a staple of myriad ethnic cuisines. Basically composed of flour and water and sometimes eggs, noodles sustain and enhance so many diets in so many ways …when they’re available. Some food for thought.

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons Sriracha

¼ cup peanut oil

¾ pound buckwheat noodles

½ cup freshly grated carrot

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and shredded

3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 large or 6 small radishes, thinly sliced

1 handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, ginger, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha and peanut oil. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then rinse in cold water and drain. Add to vinegar mixture and toss well. Top with carrot, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, radishes and cilantro. Serve at room temperature with grilled shrimp or chicken.

Udon Soup with Baby Spinach, Bok Choy and Tofu

Udon Soup with Baby Spinach, Bok Choy and Tofu

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 8-ounce package udon noodles

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon peanut oil

¾ pound tofu, patted dry and cut into 12 pieces

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 10-ounce package baby spinach, washed

2 heads bok choy, thinly sliced

6 scallions, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons tamari

¼ teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth

DIRECTIONS:

Cook noodles according to package directions. Place 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Season tofu with salt and pepper and cook in oil until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes; remove and set aside to keep warm. Add remaining tablespoon sesame oil, peanut oil and veggies to skillet and cook, tossing frequently, until just wilted and soft, then add the red pepper flakes, tamari, sugar and broth plus any juices from the veggies. Ladle into 4 bowls and top with tofu pieces. Serve hot with sautéed sliced beef, chicken, pork or fish.

Noodle Pudding

Noodle Pudding

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cottage cheese

5 cups cooked egg noodles

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sour cream, salt and pepper and sugar; stir in cheese and noodles. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and transfer mixture to it; sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake until thoroughly heated and top is crisp and golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a green salad.

Curried Cauliflower Bisque

By Barbara Beltrami

Many readers have asked me for more soup recipes and who can blame them? Winter chills have a way of making us crave bowls and mugs of hot soup for lunch as well as dinner. I make a huge pot of soup every week, as much, I think, for the comfort of its simmering on the stove as the comfort of ladling it into sturdy mugs and bowls and ingesting a sense of well-being despite what’s going on outside. For a little variety this time I’ve focused on pureed soups, which are smooth and very sipp-able from a mug (I think of them as winter smoothies), and I’ve come up with three favorites: Cream of Tomato and Cream of Mushroom, which are guaranteed to keep you zipping right past that canned soup aisle forevermore, and finally a nice spicy Curried Cauliflower Bisque, which will definitely get your taste buds singing.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup chopped onion

¼ cup flour

4 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1½ teaspoons sugar

Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes

½ teaspoon baking soda

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot melt butter over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 or 2 minutes until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly add milk, then bay leaf and sugar and continue to cook and stir until slightly thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes,  baking soda and salt and pepper; add to milk mixture and bring just to a simmer; remove bay leaf and discard. Let cool slightly and puree in batches in food processor or blender. Return to pot and, stirring frequently, bring back to simmer or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Do not freeze. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups chicken broth

1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 shallots, peeled and minced

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup flour

½ cup half-and-half

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-large pot bring chicken broth to a low boil; add mushrooms and shallots and simmer one hour. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter, then whisk in flour until smooth; slowly whisk in half-and-half, bay leaf and salt and pepper and cook until mixture is thickened and smooth, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add mushroom broth to mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let cool slightly, then puree in batches in food processor or blender; return to saucepan and reheat, stirring frequently, over medium-low flame. Remove bay leaf and discard. Serve immediately with buttered toast or crackers.

Curried Cauliflower Bisque

Curried Cauliflower Bisque

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 head cauliflower, separated into even florets

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 medium onions, chopped

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons curry powder or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Steam cauliflower until very tender, 10 to 15 minutes depending on size of florets. In a large saucepan heat butter and oil over medium heat; add onions and sauté until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add steamed cauliflower, broth, curry powder and pepper; stir, then transfer mixture in batches to food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and heat over low flame. Top with yogurt and serve immediately with a cucumber salad.

Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Almond Salad. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to wait for spring and summer for interesting salads. In fact, on the contrary, winter veggies offer some great opportunities for crispy crunchy salads that take the blah out of winter fare and are hearty and oh-so-good for you. Of course, there’s kale, the new wonder veggie, roots such as beets and carrots and all the members of the cabbage clan with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and, of course, cabbage itself, both green and red. Cooked, raw or a combination of both, deftly dressed and seasoned, a winter salad can become a whole meal in a bowl.

Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Almond Salad

Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Almond Salad. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon orange juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 bunches kale, washed, stemmed and sliced cross-wise into half-inch strips

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, ¼ cup olive oil, honey, orange juice and salt and pepper and set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the squash, onion and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; spread in foil-lined pan and bake, turning once or twice, until squash is tender but not mushy and onions are golden. Crumple kale by “massaging” with both hands; transfer to serving bowl and toss with squash and onions, dressing and almonds. Garnish with pomegranate seeds if desired. Serve warm with bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil.

Fennel, Red Cabbage, Orange and Red Onion Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 fennel bulb trimmed and diced

½ small red cabbage, thinly sliced, then chopped

2 oranges, peeled and thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced, rings separated

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or ¼ teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl toss together the fennel, cabbage, oranges and onion. In a small bowl vigorously whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, tarragon and salt and pepper; pour over salad and toss again to thoroughly coat. Serve at room temperature with meat, poultry or fish.

Golden Beet, Brussels Sprout and Kohlrabi Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 golden beets, peeled, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges each

4 medium bulbs kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each

1½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1 head Boston or romaine lettuce, washed and separated into leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

2/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup sliced scallions

¾ cup mayonnaise

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Wrap beets and kohlrabi separately in aluminum foil. Bake until fork tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, steam Brussels sprouts until tender but still bright green, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and place in ice water for 2 minutes; drain. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter; top with beets, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi. Place dill, parsley, scallions, mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture is well blended. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and pour dressing over them. Serve warm or at room temperature with crusty multigrain bread.

Coeur a la Creme

By Barbara Beltrami

Theirs are stories for the ages. Tales of lovers from myths and movies, life and lore endure. Whether seduced by blind passions or fatal attractions, devotion or desolation, famous lovers whose relationships were long or short-lived affairs of their hearts still evoke notions of romance in our own lives. 

Think Heloise and Abelard, Romeo and Juliet, Mimi and Rodolfo, Tristan and Isolde, Victoria and Albert, Antony and Cleopatra, Lancelot and Guinevere, Napoleon and Josephine, Katherine and Spencer, Rhett and Scarlett, Rocky and Adrian, Jack and Rose, Noah and Allie, Oliver and Jenny, and on and on and on. 

Who knows what these couples would have had for a Valentine’s Day dinner, but here are a few ideas for yours.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 1½ pound cooked lobster

¼ pound unsweetened butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 egg yolk

3½ cups milk

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Fresh parsley sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Remove lobster meat from shell and chop into half-inch pieces. In a deep saucepan over low heat melt butter; add flour and salt and blend till very smooth. In a deep bowl, beat egg yolk until foamy; add lobster and combine thoroughly; transfer to large saucepan. Stirring constantly, gradually add milk, until smooth, then gradually stir in wine; heat thoroughly but do not allow to boil. 

Transfer to a warmed soup tureen or individual bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve with buttered toast triangles.

Filet Steaks with Artichoke Hearts

YIELD: Makes 2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices white sandwich bread

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cooked fresh artichoke hearts

2 filet steaks, seasoned with coarse salt and pepper

¼ cup dry white vermouth

¼ cup beef broth

DIRECTIONS:

With an inverted glass, cut two discs from the bread. With bottom of glass, press each disc to ¼-inch thickness. In heavy medium skillet, heat half the oil and half the butter. Over medium heat lightly brown bread discs, turning once about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside to keep warm. In the same pan, turning once, sauté artichoke hearts until tender, about 10 minutes; remove from pan and set aside to keep warm. Add remaining oil and butter, heat, then raise heat to medium high; add steaks and cook, turning once, to desired doneness. Remove steaks and set aside to keep warm. 

Pour sauté fat out of skillet, add vermouth and broth and over high heat, while scraping bottom of pan with spatula to pick up coagulated juices, boil down liquid to 3 tablespoons. Quickly place steaks on plate, top with discs, then artichoke hearts and spoon juices over them. Serve immediately with asparagus and new potatoes.

Coeur a la Crème

Coeur a la Creme

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

*This recipe calls for a heart-shaped mold with a perforated bottom, usually available in fine houseware stores.

1 pound cottage cheese

1 pound cream cheese, softened

 Pinch of salt

 2 cups heavy cream

1 pint strawberries, crushed and sweetened to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the cottage cheese, cream cheese and salt. Beating constantly until mixture is smooth, gradually add the heavy cream. Scrape mixture into mold and place on a deep plate to drain overnight in refrigerator. When ready to serve, unmold onto chilled plate and serve with strawberries and pieces of filled chocolate (preferably from a heart-shaped box!).

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