Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

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Meatball Heroes

By Barbara Beltrami

No matter who your team is, a tailgate picnic before the game heightens the anticipation and feeds the spirit. First you need to pack lots of crisp juicy apples and several kinds of munchies. You’ll want thermoses of hot tea and coffee as well as coolers of ice cold drinks. And then hefty sandwiches accompanied by cole slaw or a mixed green salad and something decadent, sweet and salty for dessert. Personally, I think nothing lends itself to that challenge like meatball heroes. Served up with some cheese-stuffed jalapenos to start and some pretzel brownies to finish, it’s a winner of a tailgate meal. 

Cheese-stuffed Jalapenos

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

¼ pound cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons snipped chives

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne

12 jalapeno peppers washed

3 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl thoroughly combine the cheeses, sour cream, cilantro, chives, salt and pepper and cayenne. Wearing disposable food prep gloves split the jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs; rub both sides with olive oil and place in baking dish. With a table fork, press the cheese mixture into each half of the jalapenos. Bake until mixture just starts to bubble and brown and peppers are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meatball Heroes

Meatball Heroes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

1½ pounds ground beef

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs

1 small onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

2 slices white bread, soaked in water until soggy, then torn into one-inch pieces

½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Pinch baking soda

¼ cup olive oil

1½ crusty baguettes, cut into 6 sections

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. In large bowl thoroughly combine the beef, cheese, eggs, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, bread, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Roll mixture into two-inch balls and place evenly on baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes, turning once, until both sides are brown. Meanwhile, in large saucepan heat tomatoes, baking soda and olive oil over medium heat until gently bubbling; place meatballs in tomato sauce, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, one and a half hours or until sauce is reduced and thickened; add salt and pepper to taste. Horizontally split the six sections of baguette, distribute the meatballs and sauce evenly on bottom halves, cover with top halves and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. 

Pretzel Brownies

YIELD: Makes 1 dozen large brownies.

INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¼ cup sweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1¼ cups flour

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups salted pretzel sticks, broken up

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-large saucepan over low heat, melt the two sticks butter with the bittersweet chocolate, whisking occasionally until smooth. Whisk in cocoa powder; add sugar and vanilla extract; stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour until partially incorporated, then add chocolate chips and stir just until everything is thoroughly combined. Grease bottom and sides of 9×13-inch baking pan with the remaining tablespoon butter. Spread half the pretzels evenly in bottom of pan, then carefully spread batter (which will be stiff) evenly over pretzels, finally sprinkle remaining pretzels evenly over batter. Bake about 40 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Apple Nut Loaf

By Barbara Beltrami

Veggies and fruits and flowers piled in pyramids and spilling out of bushel baskets, their perfumes rewarding summer’s work and heralding its end, holding on to summer and portending autumn turn me into a kid in a candy shop.

I know that when I talk about farm stands I tend to wax rhapsodic. I can’t help it. When I am anywhere that I can pick up the scent of ripe tomatoes ready for slicing or saucing; anywhere that I can indulge myself in bright bouquets of zinnias, asters, mums, Montauk daisies, statice and sunflowers; anywhere I can grab bunches of beets, kohlrabi, broccoli, eggplants, beans, squash, cucumbers, corn and peppers for pickling; anywhere I can get pears, peaches,plums, apples and quinces for pies and preserves, I get out of control.

I bring them home, arrange them in bowls and baskets because I love to look at them and also because refrigeration steals much of their flavor and texture. So I use them up quickly while they’re at their peak. Some I just wash and eat raw; others get sauteed, steamed, grilled or baked; and still others become soups, stews, sauces and relishes, chutneys, cakes and compotes to freeze or preserve and savor while Mother Earth sleeps and we dream our winter dreams.

Eggplant Caviar

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds eggplant

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

10 fresh plum tomatoes; peeled, seeded and juiced

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise; score their cut surfaces with a sharp knife; place on cookie sheet, cut side up, 25 minutes or until pulp is very soft; set aside to cool. With a spoon scoop out pulp and drain in a mesh drainer 15 minutes. Reserve half of eggplant skin, then cut into large pieces; puree with garlic and basil in food processor; add drained eggplant pulp, salt and pepper and half the oil; pulse a few times to combine and form a coarse puree; transfer to serving bowl and chill well. Puree tomato pulp and juice with remaining one-quarter cup oil and salt and pepper to taste; place in small bowl as accompaniment to eggplant. Serve the same day with toasted Italian bread and extra virgin olive oil.

Apple Nut Loaf

Apple Nut Loaf

 

YIELD: Makes one loaf.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled, cored chopped apples

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon plus one small pinch of salt

2 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place apple slices in a small heavy saucepan with the water and pinch of salt; simmer until apples are tender but not mushy; puree and set aside to cool. In a large bowl thoroughly combine the remaining teaspoon salt, flour, the ¾ cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; stir in walnuts. In medium bowl combine pureed apples with oil and egg; stir into dry mixture just enough to moisten. Turn into a greased 9- × 5- × 3-inch loaf pan, sprinkle top surface with the tablespoon sugar and bake one hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Serve slightly warm with butter or apple butter.

Lizzie’s Corn Relish

Corn Relish

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 pints.

INGREDIENTS:

12 ears fresh corn

10 cups chopped green cabbage

3 yellow or red bell peppers, chopped

3 onions, chopped

8 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons salt

1/4 cup mustard seeds

DIRECTIONS:

Remove kernels from ears of corn; separate any that stick together. In a very large nonreactive pot combine all ingredients; bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into hot sterilized pint jars and seal. Process in boiling water bath for 15 to 20  minutes. With rubber-tipped tongs remove jars from bath and set aside to cool. Check that all jars have sealed; refrigerate any that have not sealed within 12 hours and use as soon as possible. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark dry place until ready to serve with meat, poultry or fish.

Classic Cole Slaw

By Barbara Beltrami

Ever wonder where the name coleslaw comes from? I did; so I Googled it and here’s what I found. In the 18th century it arose as a partial translation of the Dutch “koolsalade,” which became “koolsla,” meaning cabbage salad. In England it originally was called cold slaw, but in the 1860s the cole meaning cabbage came back into use. Like so many popular dishes, the classic version comprised of shredded cabbage and carrots has as many versions as people who make it. And in recent years as our veggie horizons have expanded, it’s not just cabbage. Slaw can now be made from jicama, broccoli, kohlrabi, zucchini, beets and fennel … and that’s mentioning just a few of the versions I’ve tasted or seen. Truth be told, I still prefer the classic coleslaw but the other three recipes below run a close second.

Classic Coleslaw

Classic Cole Slaw

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar or honey

1 teaspoon celery seeds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ head green cabbage, very thinly sliced or coarsely shredded

½ head red cabbage very thinly sliced or coarsely shredded

3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded

1 to 2 tablespoons grated onion

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seeds and salt and pepper. Add cabbage, carrots and onion and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 6 hours until ready to serve.

Beet Slaw

Beet Slaw

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 medium beets, peeled and grated

1 carrot, peeled and grated

2 cups red cabbage, very thinly sliced

1 small onion, grated

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl whisk together the oil, vinegars, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, salt and pepper. Add the beets, carrot, cabbage, onion and thyme; toss to coat thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

Jicama Slaw

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons honey or sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised

1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

1 large jicama, peeled and finely shredded

½ head green cabbage, trimmed and thinly sliced or shredded

2 carrots, shredded

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, chili power, honey, oil, coriander, salt and pepper and garlic clove; let sit one hour; remove and discard garlic clove. Add cilantro, jicama, cabbage and carrots; toss to coat thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

Zucchini Slaw

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1½ tablespoons honey or sugar

½ cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 small zucchini, shredded

1 yellow or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and julienned

1 celery rib, minced

Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn

2 medium fresh tomatoes, diced

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, honey, basil, oregano and salt and pepper. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, celery and corn; toss to coat thoroughly. Just before serving add tomatoes and toss again.

Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

By Barbara Beltrami

You may be wondering why I seldom write about Asian cuisine. It’s simple; I don’t know very much about it and have cooked it infrequently. However, with the spate of Asian restaurants springing up everywhere, I’ve had more occasion to dine on that cuisine. In turn, with the help of cookbooks and the internet I’ve tried to duplicate or at least imitate some of my favorite dishes, especially the soups, so rich in umami flavor. I have developed a yen (pardon the pun) for Japanese ramen, Chinese dumpling soup and my longtime favorite, hot and spicy soup.

The recipes I’ve developed may not be, by Asian standards, very authentic, but to me they taste pretty much like the genuine thing.

Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¾ pound fresh shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined

1½ tablespoons peeled very finely minced fresh ginger

4 tablespoons minced scallions

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon sesame oil

¼ cup finely minced canned water chestnuts

50 wonton wrappers

3½ cups minced, trimmed fresh baby bok choy

8 cups chicken stock or broth

DIRECTIONS:

In food processor bowl blend shrimp, ginger, scallions, salt, pepper, sherry and oil to a smooth paste.; stir in water chestnuts. In large pot, bring unsalted water to steady simmer. Lightly brush edges of wonton wrapper with water; place half a teaspoon of filling in center, then pinch corners shut to form a little pouch.

When all wrappers are filled poach them for one and a half minutes in simmering water, remove with slotted spoon, drain well and spread on large platter. Blanch bok choy in dumpling water 10 to 15 seconds, drain, then immerse in ice water, drain again and press gently to remove excess water.

In a large pot, bring chicken stock to steady simmer, gently add dumplings and cook for a minute or so to heat them through. Serve soup hot with fried noodles or spring rolls.

Chicken, Spinach, Mushroom and Ramen Noodle Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10 cups water

1 pound chicken tenders, diced

1 tablespoon fresh chopped peeled ginger

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 bunch scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons light (not too salty) miso

3 ounces dried brown rice ramen noodles

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1/3 pound green beans, cleaned and sliced

10 ounces tofu, diced

2 cups broccoli florets and peeled stems, thinly sliced

¾ pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot, simmer together the water, chicken, ginger, pepper and soy sauce for 15 minutes; discard ginger but retain liquid. In a large skillet over medium heat saute scallions, onion, carrot and garlic in sesame oil for 5 minutes, until onion is transparent and carrot is somewhat tender; toss with soy sauce. Transfer to pot with liquid; add miso, stir and bring to a boil. Add ramen noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, tofu and broccoli; return to boil and cook 5 minutes; add spinach and simmer one or two minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine or saki.

Spicy Hot Northern Chinese Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons finely minced garlic

2 to 2½ teaspoons finely minced hot peppers (serrano or other)

1 tablespoon finely minced peeled fresh ginger

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

7 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, peppers and ginger and saute until soft but not browned. Add breadcrumbs and stir well to combine with garlic mixture; add cayenne and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes; add lime juice, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, being very careful not to let soup boil, very slowly and gently stir in beaten eggs and cilantro. Serve immediately with fried rice, green tea and lots of ice cold water!

Oven-Fried Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

You’re probably wondering why I hardly ever write about chicken. In fact, several people have asked me that, and I can answer only that there are so many chicken recipes in magazines and cookbooks and on the internet that it’s seemed superfluous. However, a recent menu planning experience has convinced me otherwise.

At my wit’s end to accommodate those who didn’t eat red meat or were allergic to fish, I found myself scouring my files for recipes and realized that there’s always such a good old standby whose myriad ways of preparation have rescued many a cook, tantalized many a guest and certainly saved the day for me.

There are three recipes here: one for the cook top, one for the grill and one for the oven, so depending on the weather, your mood and what else you have on hand, you can choose your preparation. That’s the great thing about chicken; there are so many ways to prepare it that you can’t go wrong. In fact, I think I’m going to do a column on chicken more often.

Summer Chicken Stew

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 3½-pound chicken cut into 8 pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

½ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or basil

2 large fresh tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup dry white wine

DIRECTIONS:

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge it in flour. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Fry chicken, turning pieces once, until both sides are golden; remove to large saucepan. Discard oil and add remaining ¼ cup oil to pan; add onion, eggplant, bell pepper and herbs and saute stirring frequently, over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to saucepan with chicken, add tomatoes, garlic and wine and mix thoroughly. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally and adding ½ cup water at a time, if needed, until chicken and veggies are done, about 45 minutes. Serve with orzo and a summer lettuce salad.

Pesto Grilled Chicken

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves

½ cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

½ cup pignoli nuts

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

DIRECTIONS:

Place basil, garlic, oil, grated cheese, pignoli nuts and salt and pepper in bowl of electric food processor and puree, scraping bowl often, until smooth and medium green in color. Heat grill to medium-hot. In large bowl toss chicken pieces with pesto until evenly coated. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is crispy and slightly charred and juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and corn on the cob.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

3 cups buttermilk

1½ cups unseasoned breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or oregano

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken in a large bowl and pour buttermilk over it; let sit to marinate at room temperature 30 minutes. In a wide shallow bowl or pan, thoroughly combine breadcrumbs, herbs and salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in breadcrumb mixture to thoroughly coat on both sides; place on greased baking sheet and let sit 15 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 F. Bake chicken until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a sharp knife, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot with cole slaw and mashed potatoes.

Fresh Sliced Tomatoes with Herbs. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

As late August slides into Labor Day, the summer livin’ has become so easy that, like all evanescent things, these languorous afternoons and evenings become soft and fragile.

These are days that, for me, recall cold suppers served on a wraparound porch at my grandma’s summer house, days when lazy afternoons were punctuated by the creak of her rocker on the gray floorboards as she gently fanned herself with the afternoon paper. Sometimes that rhythm would be punctuated by the ping of peas in the colander in her lap or the thhhrip of corn being shucked, sounds that meant that soon I would have to put aside whatever novel was holding me spellbound and leave the lulling cocoon of the dark green glider with its faded striped cushions and set the table.

I knew the routine by heart, heard the admonitions before they were spoken. “Use the green glass dishes, dear, not the Blue Willow.” Out would come one of the many tablecloths that seemed to be in endless rotation between the sagging clothesline and the warped buffet drawer in the dining room. In those days, a cold supper meant salads, cool creamy soups, cold sliced meat or roasted chicken, everything redolent with fresh herbs she picked from the little garden near her back door.

Predictably, “Seems a shame not to slice a few tomatoes,” as if each evening it were a new idea when, in fact, they were as much a staple of summer suppers as the fresh corn picked up daily by my grandpa on his way home from work. When I grew up, I would sometimes exclaim to my family, “Hey, let’s have a cold supper!” and knowing the aforementioned stream of reminiscences that would set off, they would just roll their eyes.

Cold Garlic Soup

Cold Garlic Soup

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10-12 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pint sour cream

1/4 cup fresh chives, snipped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan lightly saute garlic and onion in oil over medium heat. Add potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are very tender. Let cool, then puree mixture in a blender or food processor, pour into a container, and cover tightly and refrigerate. Just before serving stir in milk and cream, add seasonings, stir, and ladle into soup dishes. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives. Serve with rustic bread.

Fresh Sliced Tomatoes with Herbs

Fresh Sliced Tomatoes with Herbs

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 fresh ripe garden tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Slice tomatoes about ¼-inch thick; arrange on platter; sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper; cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not refrigerate. When ready to serve drizzle with oil. Serve with crusty Italian or French bread and dip it in the juices.

Rice and Vegetable Salad

Rice and Vegetable Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups hot cooked rice (not instant)

12/3 cups vinaigrette dressing

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and diced

1 yellow or green bell pepper, stemmed, cored and diced

1 medium red onion, peeled and minced

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Kernels from 2 to 3 ears fresh corn, raw or cooked

1 pound fresh or frozen peas, cooked till tender

6 fresh radishes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl combine the rice and vinaigrette; mix thoroughly; set aside to cool to room temperature. Add vegetables, herbs and seasoning; mix thoroughly again. Transfer to platter or serving bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled with cold sliced meat or poultry.

Green beans are in season on Long Island from July to September. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Green beans, string beans, snap beans —  What’s in a name? They’re all pretty much the same thing; a favorite, as veggies go, among many people, and unlike some other veggies, seldom considered “yucky.” At this time of year, they abound in bushel baskets at farm stands, green thatches of long and slender and crisp vegetable freshness. Trimmed and lightly steamed just to the point of tenderness where they still retain their greenness, they make a fine side dish on their own dressed with lemon or butter, or as a tasty component of salads, soups, casseroles, pasta or potato dishes.

So here’s what you need to do. Go to a farm stand, carefully pick out a bunch of skinny unblemished beans, take them home, sit yourself down near a fan or an AC vent, put a bowl in your lap, and with a little knife or your thumbnail, remove the brownish stem ends of the beans, then cut or snap them to desired size (I like to leave them whole). Here are some recipes to get you started.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

This is almost but not quite a salade nicoise.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

1 pound skinny green beans, stem end removed

2 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large handfuls baby arugula

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

2 ripe garden fresh tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender; remove from water, let sit until cool enough to handle , then cut into thin slices or dice. Simultaneously, in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer, salt the green beans to taste and cook over boiling water until tender but still bright green. Immediately remove and place in bowl of ice water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. When ready to serve, arrange arugula on a serving plate, toss the potatoes and beans with the vinaigrette and pile on top of the arugula. Arrange sliced or diced eggs and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled dry white wine, crusty French bread and unsalted butter.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

This combination of green beans and onions is a far cry from that old recipe made with canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large Vidalia or red onions, peeled and cut into rings

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 pounds fresh skinny green beans, trimmed and steamed or boiled till tender but still bright green

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the butter and oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add onions, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook onions, stirring frequently, until light golden; add thyme, brown sugar and vinegar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a rich medium dark brown. Place string beans in a serving bowl and top with caramelized onions. Serve warm or hot with poultry or meat.

Green Beans with Bacon and Balsamic

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cooked till tender but bright green

½ pound bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large serving bowl toss the beans and bacon. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, bacon fat, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Half an hour before serving, toss the string bean mixture with oil mixture; tossing a few more times, let sit for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature or warm with pork or poultry or as a main dish.

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Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

With her passionate reminiscences and mouth-watering descriptions of comfort foods from way back in our childhoods — things that were part of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ regular repertoires; the kinds of things we neither cook anymore nor see on menus — my friend has motivated me to comb through old recipe files and cookbooks to try to duplicate them. I have done so with the caveat that they will never be as good as the ones we remember. How could they be? However, as my new muse in this as in so many things, I am dedicating this column to her.

Tomato Aspic 

Ask any Southern lady and she will tell you that this dish is a standard at luncheons and funerals.

YIELD: Makes 8 to10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¼ cup boiling water

4 cups tomato juice

1 tablespoon chopped onion

½ green bell pepper chopped

1 celery rib

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon celery seeds

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

Fresh bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin; let sit 5 minutes. Whisk boiling water into gelatin until it is dissolved. In a large saucepan, combine the tomato juice, onion, pepper, celery, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and celery seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes; pour through wire mesh strainer into medium bowl; discard veggies or save for another use. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice. Spray a 10-cup ring mold with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into mold; chill 6 hours or until set. Unmold onto plate lined with lettuce leaves; garnish with parsley. Serve with shrimp salad and deviled eggs.

Old-Fashioned Crabmeat Casserole

Casseroles were very popular decades ago. The combination of crabmeat, butter and breadcrumbs makes this a rich but oh-so-delicious seafood dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 large egg

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 stick unsalted butter

1½ cups unflavored breadcrumbs

1 cup half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked crabmeat (picked over to remove any bits of shell)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or grease a two-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl whisk together egg, parsley and mustard. In a medium saucepan melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat; add one cup breadcrumbs and half-and-half; cook stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add egg mixture and salt and pepper and stir just enough to incorporate but not cook egg. Fold in crabmeat; transfer to prepared casserole; sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs; dot with remaining butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

Julia’s Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Julia was the daughter of a slave. That’s how many generations the recipe

for this childhood favorite has been around.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 12 to 15 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole grain oats (old-fashioned not instant oatmeal)

¼ stick unsalted butter plus butter for greasing baking sheets

¾ cup medium brown sugar

1 egg

Pinch or 2 all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon vanilla or to taste.

DIRECTIONS:

Generously grease two baking sheets and set aside. Preheat oven to 275 F. Spread oatmeal on another baking sheet and toast it for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool. Raise oven temperature to 350 F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over moderately low heat; add sugar and mix well. Remove pan from cook top, stir in egg and oatmeal; beat until blended, then thoroughly blend in flour and vanilla. Drop batter, about one tablespoon at a time, about two inches apart as cookies will spread, onto greased baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are firm and edges are slightly brown. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheets, then with sharp spatula, carefully remove to wire racks, Serve with ice cold milk.

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Midsummer. Not exactly a dream and more of a nightmare if the temperature hits the 90s and the humidity is high too. No time to turn on an oven or sweat over a grill. Better to cook in the early morning, then refrigerate for later. But what? 

A steak grilled, cooled and refrigerated in a savory marinade, then sliced works well; so do poached chicken breasts immersed in a tonnato (tuna, mayonnaise and capers) sauce. Potato salad is always welcome whether dressed with the traditional mayonnaise, celery and hard-boiled egg or an herbed vinaigrette. 

Salad? Sliced tomatoes with onions or scallions, sprinkled with fresh corn kernels or the ever popular mozzarella and basil; garden lettuce and cucumbers and peppers; watermelon, tomato, cucumber and feta. Here are a few dreamy recipes to help you keep your midsummer nights cool.

Poached Chicken Breasts With Tonnato Sauce

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 medium boneless chicken breast halves

3 cups cold water

1 cup cold dry white wine

1 medium sprig fresh thyme

1 medium sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 handful fresh chives

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

One 6-ounce can Italian dark tuna packed in olive oil

2 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken breasts in a large skillet; cover with cold water and wine; add herbs and salt. Bring water to boil over medium heat. When a rolling boil is achieved, turn breasts over with tongs, remove from heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast reads 150 F. Remove breasts to cutting board; let sit 5 minutes, then slice. Arrange on a platter, cover and refrigerate. 

Put mayonnaise, oil, tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, capers and black pepper in jar of blender and puree until smooth; cover and refrigerate one hour. Pour generously over sliced chicken. Serve cold on a bed of lettuce with potato or rice salad and sliced fresh tomatoes.

Herbed Potato Salad

Herbed Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh chervil

2 scallions, very thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place in large bowl to cool to room temperature. In small bowl whisk together herbs, scallions, oil, wine, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat thoroughly; cover and refrigerate tossing again after 30 minutes, one hour. Serve with poultry, fish or meat. 

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups diced cucumber

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups diced watermelon

1 cup crumbled feta

Sliced red onion (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, toss together cucumber and tomatoes. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, dill, salt and pepper; pour over cucumber and tomatoes. Tossing frequently, let sit one hour. When ready to serve, add watermelon, feta and red onion (if used); toss again. Serve with poultry, meat or fish.

Basil Ice Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

There is something so satisfying about traipsing among the plants in one’s own herb garden and pinching the leaves to enjoy their fragrant and sometimes acrid pungency. And no herb offers a redolent summer perfume like basil. Nothing beats plucking one’s own basil for extravagant use in summer dishes. 

Basilico in Italian, basilic in French and derived from the Greek word for “kingly,” this marvelous herb was considered a sacred plant long ago. In fact, legend has it that St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, received a divine revelation that the true cross would be found where the air was sweetly perfumed. And guess where she found it? Under a basil patch! 

Although sweet basil with small delicate foliage is preferable to the more familiar large, broad-leafed variety, even the latter plant produces an intensity of flavor that few methods of preparation can diminish and most can enhance. 

Thinking inside the basil box, it’s thick red slices of just-picked garden tomatoes, still warm from the sun, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and slivers of fresh basil leaves; it’s linguine gently tossed with a basil pesto or breast of chicken stuffed with basil and goat cheese. Thinking outside the box, it’s basil as a flavoring for mayonnaise or a refreshing summer cooler or ice cream. Yes, I know. I’ve written about basil in past columns. But it’s that kind of herb; it’s so good that it bears repeating every now and then. 

Basil Ice Cream

Basil Ice Cream

YIELD: Makes four ¾-cup servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whole milk or half-and-half

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

½ cup very cold heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium heavy saucepan, bring milk, basil, ¼ cup sugar and salt to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Transfer to blender and process until basil is finely ground, about one minute. In medium bowl, beat egg yolks with remaining ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale, about one minute. Add milk mixture in a thin stream, beating constantly with an electric mixer, until well combined. 

Pour entire mixture into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and reads 175 F on thermometer. (Do not let boil!) Immediately remove from heat and pour through fine sieve into metal bowl; set bowl over larger bowl of ice water and stir until cold, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in cream and transfer to ice cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to airtight container and freeze at least two hours before serving with biscotti.

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes about ¾ cup

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 smashed garlic clove

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In the jar of an electric blender, combine egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard powder; pulse a few times; add herbs. With machine running, drizzle in oil until mixture emulsifies. Transfer to container, cover and chill. Serve with fish or chicken.

Basil-Citrus Cooler

Basil-Citrus Cooler

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lightly packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups orange juice

1 cup sparkling water

4 sprigs fresh basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine the basil and sugar. With the back of a wooden spoon crush the basil leaves until thoroughly bruised; stir in orange juice. Strain through cheesecloth or wire mesh strainer into ice cube-filled glasses. Add sparkling water; stir and garnish with basil sprigs. Serve immediately with tea cake or cookies.