Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

Barbara Beltrami

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Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Shallots and Mushrooms

By Barbara Beltrami

A recent trip to a farm stand out east provided more than I had bargained for. I had stopped to pick up winter squash as an accompaniment to a flavorful main dish. But when I beheld the cornucopia of varieties gorgeous and green and gold, earthy and tawny, tumbling from crates and mounded in baskets, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to buy them all. However, I showed remarkable restraint and took home just a couple of spaghetti and acorn squashes. Then I couldn’t decide between the following two recipes so I made them both! 

Stuffed Winter Squash

YIELD: Makes 4 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large, 2 medium or 4 small winter squash, any variety

3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

¹/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped leaves from one handful Italian flat-leaf parsley

2/3 cup pignoli nuts

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano, thyme or sage

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash, halve and seed the squash. With a sharp spoon scrape out flesh until only half an inch is left inside the shell. Place flesh in a food processor and puree until as smooth as possible. Transfer to a medium bowl; add breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, nuts, pepper and herbs; and mix thoroughly. Scoop mixture into hollowed-out shells; dot with butter. Fill a shallow baking pan with one to two inches of water; then place the filled shells in the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more, until tops begin to turn golden brown. Serve immediately with Italian sausages, pork or poultry and couscous or wild rice.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Shallots and Mushrooms

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Shallots and Mushrooms

YIELD: Makes 4 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 small spaghetti squashes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 small shallots, minced

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, basil or thyme leaves, minced

5 to 6 large fresh Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

4 to 6 ounces fresh white mushrooms, diced

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and quarter the squash. With a spoon, scoop out seeds. Place wedges skin side down in a large skillet and fill it with two inches of water or just enough to touch bottoms of wedges. Cover and cook over low-medium heat 20 minutes or until very tender. Check occasionally to be sure water hasn’t boiled away. Remove squash from heat and when it is cool enough to handle, scrape flesh into a medium bowl. Add two tablespoons butter, salt and pepper; mash and mix thoroughly. Set aside to keep warm.  

In a medium skillet melt two tablespoons butter; add shallots and herbs. Sauté until barely tender; add tomatoes; sauté five minutes more until they are barely cooked. Add mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes. Place squash mixture in a large serving bowl and top with shallot-tomato mixture and serve immediately as a main or side dish with poultry, beef, lamb or pork.

Chicken Salad with Chopped Gherkins and Walnuts on a Croissant

By Barbara Beltrami

When John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, purportedly commanded that a servant bring him some slabs of roast meat between two slices of bread during a gambling session, he unwittingly changed the lunch habits of the English people. 

While the story’s veracity lies on shaky foundations, its subject, the sandwich, lies on foundations that are unquestionably the staff of life. Although this versatile commodity undoubtedly takes its name from England, it had been the custom in France long before that to give field workers or travelers a meal of stewed or roasted meat between slices of bread. 

In fact, fish, sliced fowl and egg sandwiches were a recognized preparation in French cuisine long before the British invented, or at least, discovered them. Whether a wrap, petit pain, panino or pita pocket, the sandwich is certainly the greatest invention since sliced bread. On a baguette, bagel bialy, bun or brioche, on rye, pumpernickel, whole wheat, white or multigrain, the sandwich filled with just about anything is the staple and star of any self-respecting lunch box or lunch menu. 

And in case I’ve left any out, here are a few of my favorites that make ham and cheese ho-hum and peanut butter and jelly pedestrian. Each recipe is for one sandwich but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.

Curried Egg Salad with Sliced Heirloom Tomato and Green Bell Pepper on Multigrain English Muffin

Combine 1½ tablespoons mayonnaise with ½ teaspoon of curry powder. Mix with one chopped hard-boiled egg. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Spread on a toasted multigrain English muffin; top with sliced tomato and thinly sliced pepper rings. Season again with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Chicken Salad with Chopped Gherkins and Walnuts on a Croissant

Poach or broil half a chicken breast.  When cool, cut into ½-inch cubes, then mix with 2 tablespoons diced celery, 1 tablespoon chopped gherkin, 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Pile mixture onto croissant halves.

Italian Tuna with Cannellini Beans, Red Onion, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Wine Vinegar on Sliced Tuscan Bread

Cut bread into two slices; toast lightly. Drain a 3-ounce can of Italian oil-packed tuna, flake it with a fork and then set it aside. Rinse and drain ⅓ to ½ cup cannellini beans. In a small bowl, mash slightly. Stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons wine vinegar, then season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle each bread slice with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, top with bean mixture, tuna and 1 tablespoon chopped red onion.

Smoked Nova Scotia Salmon with Sliced Radish and Scallion Cream Cheese on an Everything Bagel

Mix ¼ to ⅓ cup whipped cream cheese with two sliced radishes and one sliced scallion. Spread evenly on two bagel halves. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Place a slice or two of smoked salmon on each half.

Grilled Fresh Tomato Slices

By Barbara Beltrami

So you stopped at that cute little farm stand and couldn’t resist those beautiful (ugly and misshapen) heirloom tomatoes. Those peppers were just too perfect to pass up, and there it was, the first local cauliflower of the season. Or maybe you’re lucky and this year your vegetable garden actually yielded some tomatoes before the critters got to them, you had a bumper crop of peppers and eked out one perfect cauliflower. So now what? Roll up your sleeves, wash those veggies, and fire up the grill because that’s where they and you are going.

Grilled Fresh Tomato Slices 

Grilled Fresh Tomato Slices

 

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 large fresh tomatoes, washed and sliced 1-inch thick

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup fresh, chopped basil

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare a hot fire on your grill. Oil a perforated grill rack with a little of the olive oil. Brush the tomato slices on both sides with the remaining oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill the tomatoes on the perforated grill rack 3 to 4 minutes, gently turn and grill on the other side until they begin to sizzle and have grill marks. Remove to a platter. Garnish with basil. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with toasted garlic bread.

Grilled Stuffed Peppers

Grilled Stuffed Peppers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 medium bell peppers (any color), inner membrane and small area around stem removed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch scallions, cleaned and sliced

2 cups cubed coarse white bread such as, but not limited to, ciabatta or sourdough

2 cups chopped tomatoes with their juice

1 cup grated cheddar or manchego cheese

1 cup fresh corn kernels

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare a hot fire on your grill. Oil a disposable foil baking pan with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Trim a small slice off the bottom of each pepper so it will stand up straight in the baking pan. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon oil and saute the scallions 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Add the bread, tomatoes, cheese, corn, parsley and salt and pepper and stir until well blended and bread is moist. Spoon mixture into peppers and place them in foil pan. Place pan on indirect heat side of grill, close lid and cook until tops of peppers are bubbling and slightly charred, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a green salad, corn on the cob, and meat, poultry or beans.

Grilled Herbed Cauliflower Steaks

Grilled Herbed Cauliflower Steaks

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large head cauliflower, washed and drained

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Holding the cauliflower upright and starting at the center, slice it into one-inch slabs. Save any detached florets for another use. Oil grill rack; preheat grill to medium-low. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs. Place steaks on a large platter and brush them liberally on both sides with two-thirds of the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Grill them 5 to 10 minutes until brown on bottom; turn them, brush with remaining mixture, season again with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese Cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and brown on other side. Serve hot or warm with poultry or meat, potatoes and a salad.

Chicken Tarragon

By Barbara Beltrami

If there is one herb that is closely associated with the delicacy and sophistication of French cuisine, it is tarragon. Despite its exquisite flavor and haunting aromatic essence, it is a hardy little plant that once introduced into your garden will return year after year to give you myriad pleasures in a countless variety of uses. As the growing season wanes, now is a good time to harvest the last of it and freeze it for later use. Or it is usually available in the produce section of the supermarket. 

Tarragon is certainly essential to a bearnaise sauce, which beautifully enhances not only beef but also chicken and fish. It gives a tangy kick to salad dressings and light creamy soups and is one of the essential ingredients in a bouquet of fine herbs. Try making your own tarragon vinegar by sticking a couple of sprigs into a bottle of cider vinegar or white wine vinegar and just leave it there until the vinegar is finished. Blend it with mayonnaise for chicken, shrimp, lobster or crabmeat salads or tartar sauce for fish.

There are various kinds of tarragon; the ones usually available around here are French, Russian and Texan. Go for the French as it has the truest, most pure flavor. And use the herb sparingly as a little goes a long way.

Chicken Tarragon

Chicken Tarragon

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 small roasting chicken (about 2½ to 3 pounds)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Leaves from 1 or 2 sprigs fresh tarragon

1 small garlic clove, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup brandy

DIRECTIONS:

Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels inside and outside. In a small bowl mash together the butter, tarragon leaves, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub inside of bird with mixture, then brush olive oil on outside. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow baking pan and roast one hour at 375 F or until done.  

Remove from oven, pour brandy evenly over chicken; then return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, place on a platter and stir and scrape drippings in pan. Spoon drippings over carved chicken and serve immediately with choice of potato and vegetable.

Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise Sauce

 

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

1½ tablespoons minced shallots

Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh tarragon, minced

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

3 egg yolks

2/3 cup melted unsalted butter

Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In the top of a double boiler combine wine, vinegar, shallots, pepper, tarragon and parsley and cook until mixture is reduced by half. Allow to cool, then, keeping the pot over very hot water, add the egg yolks and butter alternately and gradually while continuously whisking so that they are thoroughly combined. Add salt. 

Serve immediately with beef tenderloin, shell or porterhouse steak and French fries

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

By Barbara Beltrami

Like so many holidays, Rosh Hashana, which begins the Jewish New Year on the evening of Sept. 9, features an assortment of traditional foods. Among them are carrots, pomegranates, fish and, last but not least, bread, apples and honey. Each of these has a symbolic association with the idea of plenty, prosperity, newness, beauty and sweetness — all very happy and positive bodings for the new year. I would love to go into what each means, but my editor would have a conniption if I wrote all that. Anyway, below are recipes that feature three of those very important elements of the Rosh Hashana table … apples and honey for a sweet and happy new year and challah for a prosperous one.

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

 

YIELD: Makes two 9×5×3-inch loaves.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 apples peeled, cored and shredded 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour loaf pans. In a large bowl combine sugar and oil; add eggs and beat until mixture is pale yellow. Stir in ¾ cup of the honey and vanilla. In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir into egg mixture just until moistened. Fold in apples. Pour batter into loaf pans; bake 45 minutes or until cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Heat remaining quarter cup of honey until warm. Let cake cool 15 minutes, then invert onto plate, prick with a fork and drizzle warm honey over top. Serve with dessert wine, coffee or tea.

Holiday Challah

Holiday Challah

YIELD: Makes 2 large loaves.

INGREDIENTS:

Four ¼-ounce packages quick-rise yeast

4 cups warm (105–115 F) water

2 tablespoons salt

¾ cup sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening, melted

4 eggs

10 to 12 cups bread flour (approximate)

1 egg

¼ cup poppy seeds

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; stir to moisten. Stir in salt, sugar, shortening and the 4 eggs. Gradually mix in flour, one cupful at a time until dough becomes slightly sticky but not wet. (You may not need all the flour.) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Grease two baking sheets and set aside. Cut dough into two equal pieces, then divide each of those pieces into 3 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll each of the smaller pieces into a 12-inch rope about the thickness of a thumb, but thicker in the middle and thinner toward each end. For each loaf, braid the 3 ropes, pinch together and tuck under at ends. Gently pat each loaf into a circular shape and lift onto baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel let rise in a warm place until double in size, 60 to 90 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat remaining egg with ½ teaspoon water and brush top of each loaf with mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake until tops are shiny and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

Flatbread with Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

By Barbara Beltrami

One of the nice things about the influx of immigrants in recent years is that they’ve brought with them cultures that we were formerly unfamiliar with and have added a whole new dimension to our own culture and cuisine. 

For years, we’ve accepted and taken for granted the cuisines that western European and British immigrants brought with them and actually integrated them into what we now think of as basic American cuisine. But now dishes from regions in the Far and Near East as well as the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America have also assumed dynamic roles in our basic American cuisine. 

A good example is flatbread. Acting as the base for a limitless number of toppings, it makes a great light meal, tasty appetizer and healthful snack.

Basic Flatbread

YIELD: Makes approximately 20 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

2¼ ounces active dry yeast

1¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup warm (100 F) water

2 teaspoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, flour and salt. Slowly add water and mix until dough starts to form a ball. Coat hands and a flat surface with flour and knead dough until it feels smooth and elastic. Place dough in oil-coated large bowl; cover with a clean damp linen or cotton towel; and let sit in a warm place about one hour or until doubled in size. Remove from bowl to floured surface and punch and knead gently. Separate dough into golf ball size pieces. With a rolling pin flatten each piece into a ⅛-inch-thick disk. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium setting and cook disk until dough begins to bubble, about one minute, flip it and cook other side. Serve warm with olives, olive oil, hummus, tzatziki or baba ghanoush or top with other ingredients in this column and broil.

Tomato, Feta, Chickpea and Kalamata Olive Topping

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and lightly mashed

2 large garden tomatoes, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup pitted chopped Kalamata olives

¹/₃ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat broiler. Arrange first five ingredients on flatbread; drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with black pepper; and place on a broiler pan rack and broil until topping starts to bubble, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm with hard or soft cold drinks and spinach salad.

Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

Flatbread with Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, washed and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch scallions, cleaned, washed and sliced thin

1 cup fresh ricotta

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 

Grated zest of half a lemon

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a large covered skillet over medium heat, cook Swiss chard with salt, pepper and one cup water until limp and tender. When cool enough to handle, squeeze or press out all liquid and divide and spread evenly on flatbreads. Top with scallions and ricotta. Broil until bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes, remove, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with lemon zest and salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm with tomato and onion salad and cold drinks.

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

By Barbara Beltrami

“Please pass the potato salad.” Famous last or more likely first words at many a party, picnic or barbecue. Who among us does not adore the tangy taste of that ubiquitous combination of potatoes and dressing? And while that dressing may range from vinegar and oil to mayonnaise to whipped or sour cream, there is one constant to all good potato salad recipes: The potatoes are freshly cooked, not left over. 

Additions such as herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, capers, mustard or pickles can always dress up the salad, but for me, the more basic the recipe, the less interference with that wonderful marriage of potatoes and dressing. 

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

1½ cups mayonnaise or to taste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

¼ pound crisp fried bacon, crumbled

5 hard boiled eggs quartered

1 medium red onion, minced

2 celery ribs, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender; rinse under cold water, drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Mix mayonnaise with vinegar; add bacon, eggs, onion, celery and tomato. While they are still warm, slice or coarsely chop but do not peel potatoes.In a large bowl, toss with mayonnaise mixture, salt and pepper; sprinkle parsley on top.  Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with sandwiches, grilled meat or poultry or cold cuts.

Potato Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves

½ cup fresh chopped chives

¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 scallions, very thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender; rinse under cold water, drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. In a medium bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, wine, herbs, scallions, salt and pepper; toss with potatoes and serve warm or at room temperature with cold cuts, poultry, or beef or other salads.

Old-Fashioned Basic Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

2 cups good mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 celery ribs finely chopped

1 medium red onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside till cool enough to handle. In a medium bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, celery, onion, salt and pepper. In large bowl, toss with potatoes. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with barbecued chicken, burgers, hot dogs or steaks.

Summer Garden Pasta

By Barbara Beltrami

As much as a hearty ragu with rigatoni is welcome in the winter, so is a light sauce with capellini, spaghetti or farfalle in the summer. Summer pastas call for delicate shapes, light ingredients and minimal saucing. They also require taking advantage of summer veggies, using fresh tomatoes rather than canned ones, and seasoning with lots of fresh herbs. This is the time to let your imagination take you on a cook’s tour, to invent as you go along and to use unlikely fresh ingredients like arugula, melon (that’s right!), citrus and fish.

Summer Garden Pasta

Summer Garden Pasta

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta

1 pound very small zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into small dice

½ medium red onion, peeled and cut into small dice

½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice

2 celery ribs, cut into small dice

2 large tomatoes, cut into small dice

2 carrots, peeled and minced or shredded

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile combine the veggies, basil and parsley in a large bowl. When pasta is al dente, drain well and add, along with the olive oil, to the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Serve immediately with a crisp dry white or rose wine.

Pasta with Baby Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

Pasta with Baby Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta

1pound baby shrimp

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup chopped fresh chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Saute shrimp and garlic in two tablespoons of the olive oil until shrimp are pink and garlic releases its aroma, one to two minutes. Set shrimp aside; discard garlic. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, puree tomatoes in a food processor. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining oil and add tomatoes with their juice. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add shrimp, chives and salt and pepper; continue cooking another 5 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Toss with pasta in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature with a spinach salad.

Spaghetti with Cantaloupe and Prosciutto

Spaghetti with Cantaloupe and Prosciutto

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound spaghettini

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed, cut into small dice

1cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon tomato paste

2 ounces prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over high heat, combine butter and oil. When very hot, but not smoking, add melon and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes, until soft but not mushy. Add cream, lemon juice and tomato paste and cook over high  heat until reduced to one-quarter its original volume. As soon as pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to large serving bowl. Toss with sauce, prosciutto, salt and pepper. Serve with a salad of baby greens and sliced grape tomatoes.

Oven-Fried Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

When I was a little kid, there were three elderly women, Harriet, Tess and Bea, friends of my grandmother, who shared a beach bungalow on some little island off the Connecticut coast. Each summer we would pack the car and make our annual pilgrimage to visit them. 

It always seemed there was so much to do there. They would send us on scavenger hunts for prizes from the dime store or foraging for beach glass. We fished, dug clams, husked corn and ate cucumbers and tomatoes from their garden and helped them make jam from the wild berries along the road. We baked cakes and cookies and pies and played cards and checkers and Monopoly on the porch.  

But best of all were the picnics, the highlights of our time there. Harriet insisted there was only one menu for any real picnic, and it could not be altered or amended. Her fried chicken took center stage while Tess’ potato salad sat in a Pyrex bowl right beside it along with Bea’s deviled eggs. Sliced tomatoes were obligatory as were iced tea and lemonade and, of course, watermelon. They would never share their recipes, but I think these are pretty good approximations.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 broiler-fryer chickens, cut into 4 pieces each

1 quart buttermilk

1 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Place chicken in a large shallow baking dish; pour buttermilk over it and coat thoroughly; turn to coat other side. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning once. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chicken from buttermilk and pat lightly with paper towels; discard buttermilk. 

Dip chicken first in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour oil into large shallow baking pan; place chicken in pan and place in oven; bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once, until chicken is crisp. Remove chicken, drain on paper towels and serve hot, at room temperature or cold with potato salad, deviled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed

½ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced red onion

½ cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup (or more) mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Boil potatoes until tender but firm; cool to room temperature; cut into bite-size chunks, if necessary. In a large bowl combine with celery, onion and parsley. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard, salt and pepper; add to potato mixture and combine. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately at room temperature with fried chicken, devilled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 hard-boiled eggs

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Remove egg shells, then cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with salt, mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne. With a small teaspoon, scoop mixture back into egg whites. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately with fried chicken, potato salad and sliced tomatoes.

By Barbara Beltrami

One of the bumper crops produced by summer backyard gardens and featured by farm stands is the cucumber, ever popular for its crunchy texture and ease of preparation. Comfortable as a mere salad ingredient for its crispness, the main attraction of a cold cucumber soup to inaugurate a summer meal, or a tzatziki accompanying a barbecue, the cucumber lends itself easily to summer fare. 

There are those who say the skin should be left on; then there are those who say the skin should be pared; and there are also those who say the skin should be pared but not completely — just in alternate stripes and a fork run down the sides to create a fancy presentation after slicing. 

Beyond those are the people who like their cucumbers sliced ultra thin and those who claim that the cucumber is at its best when cut into spears, the seeds scooped out and the spears diced. Whatever your preference, I hope you find the recipes that follow handy additions to your summer repertoire.

Cucumber Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt

1 cup white or cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Sprinkle cucumbers lightly with salt and let stand 10 minutes. Rinse, drain and place in serving dish. Combine vinegar, sugar, ground pepper and bell pepper and let sit 5 minutes. Pour over cucumbers. Sprinkle dish with parsley. Serve at room temperature with meat or poultry.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Cold Cucumber Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cups unpeeled diced cucumber

1 cup arugula leaves, chopped and de-stemmed

1 potato, peeled and minced

2 cups chicken broth

2 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup heavy cream

Chopped scallions or radishes for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium or large saucepan, melt the butter, then cook the onion in it until it is transparent. Add cucumber, arugula, potato, broth, parsley, salt and pepper and dry mustard. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes until potato is tender. Puree in an electric food processor. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, add cream, stir well and garnish. Serve with salad, fish, chicken, sandwiches or slices of an interesting bread.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki

YIELD: Makes approximately 1½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ English cucumber, peeled and grated

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and using small spoon, scrape out the seeds if there are any. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the cucumber. In a medium bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, garlic, dill, mint, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with pita bread and lamb, eggplant, hummus or other Mediterranean dishes.

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