Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

Barbara Beltrami

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Rhubarb Pie

By Barbara Beltrami

Rhubarb. You either like it or you don’t. Or you never liked it when you were a kid, but now you do. Or maybe you’ve never even had it. But here it is growing and appearing in gardens or produce departments as another harbinger of spring into summer. It can be eaten raw or cooked, in a dessert, sauce, salsa or chutney; but it does require sugar as on its own it is very sour. And just remember: It’s the stalks you eat, not the leaves. They’re poisonous.

Most people think of rhubarb as strawberry’s other half. That’s probably because strawberries and rhubarb ripen pretty much simultaneously and do complement each other. There are lots of strawberry festivals going on and next week I will write about them. But for now, let’s just talk about rhubarb, for which there are no festivals that I know of. What a shame.

Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Pie

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 9-inch or larger pie crusts, preferably homemade

5 cups washed, trimmed and sliced rhubarb

1¼ cups sugar

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out one pie crust to a few inches larger than the bottom of the pie plate and drape the excess over the rim. In a large bowl, make the filling by mixing the rhubarb, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Spread filling evenly over crust, dot with butter. Roll out the top crust the same way and place evenly over filling. Wet your fingers with ice water, then fold and press edges together on top of rim, and with a small pointed knife, make a few slits in the crust. Bake 15 minutes at 450 F, then another 20 to 25 minutes at 350 F. Pie is ready when crust is golden and some juice bubbles through slits. Serve with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the topping:

1 cup flour

1/3 cup oats (not quick cooking)

¾ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 stick of unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped almonds

For the rhubarb mixture:

Butter for greasing baking dish

2½–3 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces (you should end up with about 2 pounds or 8 cups)

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously grease an 8-inch by 8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. For the topping, in a medium bowl combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt, melted butter and almonds. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to use. For the rhubarb mixture, in a large bowl thoroughly combine the rhubarb, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake about 45 minutes or until top is golden and slightly crispy and filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or strawberry ice cream or whipped cream.

Rhubarb Sauce

Rhubarb Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces

1/3–1/2 cup sugar or to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook rhubarb and sugar together, stirring occasionally, until they reach a mushy but thick consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes. (Rhubarb will release a lot of water, but you can add about ¼ cup of water to start, if you wish.) That’s it! Serve on vanilla ice cream.

Quiche Lorraine

By Barbara Beltrami

Of all my memories from my travels, one of the clearest and most poignant is a picnic lunch on a riverbank in the Dordogne area of France. After a long walk through meadows and the cobblestoned streets of tiny villages, across bridges and down rutted roads, what our guide had told us would be a modest lunch prepared by his fiancée turned out to be an incredibly sumptuous feast of everything one fantasizes about in such a setting.

I still remember the platters of freshly cut melon with delicate slices of ham, local farm fresh cheeses and butter, pates with cornichons, thick slices of juicy homegrown tomatoes and fresh picked delicate greens with just a touch of vinaigrette, long crusty baguettes still warm from the oven, ruby red cherries and the piece de resistance — not one but three different quiches made, of course, with vegetables from their garden, eggs from their chickens and cream from their cow.

I’ve made many a fancy lunch and many a quiche in my day, but none will ever come close to those. I have neither the quality of ingredients nor that setting with its perfect ambiance. But I have often tried to imitate if not duplicate those quiches. The recipes that follow for Quiche Lorraine, Zucchini Quiche and Spinach and Mushroom Quiche are the closest I’ve gotten. Bon appétit!

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry for one 9-inch pie

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 strips crispy cooked bacon, lightly crumbled

1 cup shredded Gruyere or Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups half-and-half

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate with pastry and bake 5 minutes. In a small skillet, sauté onion in butter until softened and opaque. Sprinkle bacon, onion and cheeses over bottom of baked pastry. With a wire whisk thoroughly combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Pour mixture onto pie crust. Bake the quiche 15 minutes at 450 F, then reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Serve hot or warm with onion soup, arugula salad and a French baguette.

Zucchini Quiche

Zucchini Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pie crust

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2/3–¾ lb zucchini, washed, halved lengthwise then very thinly sliced crosswise

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1½ cups half-and-half

3 large eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 ounces Emmenthaler (Swiss), Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of 9-inch quiche pan or pie dish with pie crust and bake 5 minutes. In large skillet melt butter; add oil. Add zucchini and onion and sauté until tender and just starting to turn golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. In medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese, zucchini and onions evenly over bottom of crust. Pour in egg mixture. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with garlic bread and sliced tomatoes with olive oil, basil and vinegar.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pie crust

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup cleaned fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 cup cooked, drained and chopped fresh or frozen spinach

2/3 cup grated Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese

1/3 cup crumbled blue or Roquefort cheese

1 3/4 cups half-and-half

3 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate with crust and bake 5 minutes. In small skillet, melt butter, add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat; add prepared spinach and toss with mushrooms and remaining melted butter to coat. Sprinkle evenly in pie dish, then sprinkle the two cheeses on top. In medium bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and salt and pepper. Pour into pie plate. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with a salad of fennel, endive, radicchio, fresh or dried fruits, chopped walnuts and a French baguette.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

I think that, after reminding ourselves what Memorial Day is really all about, most of us think of it as the official beginning of summer and the kickoff for the many backyard barbecues, beach parties and picnics that will follow. Amid the flags and parades and sales, there are the hot dogs and hamburgers, barbecued chicken, ribs and steaks, potato salads, macaroni salads and cole slaw. And never would I presume to give recipes for those three side dishes because there are as many “world’s best” as there are people who make them. Instead I’d like to offer you a few recipes for other salads that are a little different and real crowd pleasers. Enjoy the following recipes for a healthy rice salad and spinach-strawberry salad.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 10-ounce bags prewashed spinach, trimmed

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, trimmed and quartered

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons orange juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup toasted pignoli nuts

DIRECTIONS: In a large salad bowl toss together the spinach and strawberries. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegars, honey, orange juice and salt and pepper until well emulsified. When ready to serve, whisk again and pour over spinach and strawberries; toss to coat thoroughly and sprinkle with pignoli nuts. Serve at room temperature with meat, fish, fowl or casseroles.

Rice Salad

Rice Salad

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups long grain white or brown rice

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

One medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh mint

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Prepare the rice according to package directions; let cool to room temperature or lukewarm. Then toss with the olive oil and lemon juice. Let sit, covered, for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, scallions, cucumber, parsley, oregano, mint, salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly. Serve at room temperature with lamb, beef, chicken or fish.

Pasta Primavera

By Barbara Beltrami

The daffodils, tulips, dogwoods and azaleas may be the first flowers of spring, but some vegetables are the first tastes of spring. Early peas, spinach, green onions, Swiss chard, asparagus and artichokes are but a few of the sprouts that become the first greens of the season. Although we have become spoiled and accustomed to out-of-season veggies from warmer climates, nothing from the produce department, unless it’s locally grown, compares to the pencil-thin asparagus, fresh peas and other young spring greens available at farmers markets and stands. And what better way to showcase and savor them than with pasta?

Celebrate spring with the following recipes: pasta primavera and spinach pasta with fresh cream, peas, and Gorgonzola.

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

YIELD: Makes four to six servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large artichokes (see preparation instructions)*

1 large lemon, halved

½ lb Swiss chard, large stems removed and leaves cut into one-inch strips

1 lb very thin asparagus, tough bottoms removed, tops cut into one-inch pieces

1 lb peas in pods, shelled

1 bunch scallions, very green top parts removed, and remaining parts cut into half-inch slices

1 lb pasta of your choice

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces prosciutto or pancetta diced

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: Wash and prepare vegetables. In a large pot, put pasta water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place prosciutto or pancetta with oil in medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté for 5 minutes; add the scallions and sauté for 5 minutes more. Drain the artichokes and add them, along with the Swiss chard, asparagus and peas to the pan. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender. Add broth as more liquid is needed; add salt and pepper. Combine with cooked pasta and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with crusty Italian bread and extra virgin olive oil.

*Trim all the tough outer leaves from the artichokes until the lighter colored inner leaves with large green tips are exposed. Snap off green parts. When leaves have only small green tips, lay artichoke on its side and slice them off. Cut artichoke into quarters and with a small knife, cut out fuzzy, rough choke. Once choke is removed, cut each quarter into thirds. Place the pieces, as you prepare them, in a bowl of cold water with the lemon halves and let sit for half an hour while you slice up other vegetables.

Spinach Pasta with Peas, Gorgonzola Cheese and Cream

Spinach Pasta with Peas, Gorgonzola Cheese
and Cream

YIELD: Makes four servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ cup freshly shelled peas

3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, diced

1 1/3 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lb spinach linguine or fettuccine

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: In a small saucepan cook peas in boiling salted water until tender but still bright green. Drain, place in bowl of ice water and set aside. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, melt the Gorgonzola, stirring constantly. Stir in cream. Thoroughly drain the peas and add them along with the salt and pepper. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente or barely resistant to the bite. Drain and in a large bowl, combine with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Toss and serve immediately with an arugula and cherry tomato salad with a light oil and vinegar dressing.

Frittata with Goat Cheese, Tomato and Chives

By Barbara Beltrami

Take it from me, a longtime mom — of all the Mother’s Day celebrations and gifts I’ve received over the years, breakfast in bed was the best. While fancy restaurant brunches were a treat, they were prepared by a stranger. But the ones cooked at home by the people I love were endearingly special.

Awakened by the clatter of dishes, pots and pans and quarreling voices, I would lie in bed obsessing over what kind of a mess I’d find in the kitchen. Then, when I heard the tentative knock and loud whispers outside my door, I feigned sleep, then a yawny surprise as the miniature chefs ever so carefully placed a tray on my lap. I had raised them right. Alongside pancakes, muffins or waffles there was always a flower in a bud vase, a pretty cloth napkin and a garnish on each plate.

Here are three recipes that range from super easy for little hands to a bit more complicated with help from bigger hands for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. Whether you use them all or just one or two, if you don’t forget to add a steaming mug of her favorite coffee or tea, I can guarantee you Mom will be delighted. And … be sure to clean up afterward!

Frittata with Goat Cheese, Tomato and Chives

For little hands to prepare and big hands to cook

Frittata with Goat Cheese, Tomato and Chives

YIELD: Makes one serving

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons butter

2 large eggs

One tablespoon cream or milk

2 ounces goat cheese, diced

3 to 4 cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced thin

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 whole chives, washed and trimmed

1 cherry tomato, washed and sliced in half

DIRECTIONS: Adjust oven racks so that top rack is about one-third of way down the oven. Preheat oven to broil. In a small ovenproof skillet, melt the butter, tilting the pan until bottom and sides are well coated. Beat the eggs with the cream until they start to look foamy with bubbles around the outside. Stir in goat cheese, tomato slices, chives, salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into hot skillet and cook over medium heat; with metal or wooden spatula lift the cooked edges and let the liquid mixture flow down and around. When almost completely cooked except for a wobbly liquid center, place skillet on top rack of oven. Leave oven door slightly ajar and broil until top is light golden and center springs back when pressed. Slide frittata onto a plate and garnish with whole chives and halved cherry tomato. Serve with popovers, buttered toast or toasted English muffin.

Berry and Yogurt Parfait

For little hands

Berry and Yogurt Parfait

YIELD: Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup fresh blackberries

1/3 cup fresh raspberries

1/3 cup fresh blueberries

8 ounces vanilla yogurt

1 sprig mint for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Rinse berries in cold water and drain thoroughly. In a small bowl, gently mix them together. In a tall glass or wine glass, place two tablespoons of yogurt, then top with two tablespoons berries. Repeat until all the berries and yogurt have been used. Top with a sprig of mint. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with a popover, a frittata or a granola bar.

Popovers

For little hands with help from bigger hands (especially when using the oven)

Popovers

YIELD: Makes 5 to 10 popovers (depending on size of muffin cups)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 425 F. Generously grease muffin tin that has large cups. In medium bowl beat all ingredients together just until smooth. Do not overbeat. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until deep golden on outside. Serve immediately with jam, butter or honey.

Lemon Souffle

By Barbara Beltrami

Well into my cooking years, the idea of making a soufflé had always terrified me. I don’t remember when but at some point I learned that the famous dish with the reputation of being a success standard for any real cook originated in France in the early 18th century. I do remember being astounded. Really? The early 1700s?

So I decided right then and there that if they could make soufflés way back then with relatively primitive implements and heat, surely, armed with my electric mixer and oven and my trusty “New York Times Cook Book,” so could I. Hey, it was just some beaten eggs with a few other ingredients added, right?

I started with a cheese soufflé, then as I gained courage and confidence, I experimented with other recipes. That is not to say that I didn’t have some real flops along the way, but when those soufflés came out of the oven looking and tasting like the real thing, I couldn’t have been prouder. Here are the recipes that worked for me.

Cheese Soufflé

Cheese Souffle

YIELD: 4 small or 2 large servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

3 eggs, separated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly butter a 7-inch soufflé dish. In a saucepan melt butter, then add flour and stir with a wire whisk until thoroughly blended. In another saucepan bring milk to a boil and, stirring vigorously, add all at once to flour mixture. Stir in cheese. Beat egg yolks, then once the cheese has melted, add a little of the hot mixture to them; mix and, stirring constantly, return slowly to the saucepan. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently but thoroughly fold them into the cheese mixture. Pour mixture into soufflé dish and bake until fairly firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Lemon Soufflé

Lemon Souffle

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs, separated

¼ cup hot water

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon zest

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter bottom and sides of one-and-a-half quart soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar. Beat yolks until thick; gradually add hot water and continue beating with a wire whisk. Beating thoroughly after each addition, gradually add sugar. Add salt, lemon zest and juice and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn into soufflé dish and place dish in a pan of hot water. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until golden and fairly firm. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Soufflé

Chocolate Souffle

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup milk

Pinch salt

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cold strong coffee

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a two-quart soufflé dish, then sprinkle bottom and sides with sugar. In a saucepan melt butter, add flour and stir with a wire whisk until blended. In another saucepan, bring milk to a boil and, stirring vigorously with the wire whisk, add all at once to the butter-flour mixture; add salt. In a double boiler with the water hot, but not boiling, melt the chocolate with the sugar and the coffee; stir into sauce, add vanilla and beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Cool, then fold in beaten egg whites and turn mixture into soufflé dish. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until puffy and brown. Serve immediately.

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

By Barbara Beltrami

It seems that these days there’s hardly a restaurant menu that doesn’t offer salmon in some form. And there is hardly a supermarket with a fish department or a fish monger that doesn’t display salmon front and center. It’s easy to see why. First of all, because of its nutritional value as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, potassium, B vitamins and selenium among others, it can hardly be ignored as a staple for a healthy diet.

Additionally it’s among the tastiest and most versatile of fish in that it lends itself easily to myriad flavors and preparations. I like it so much and cook it so often that it’s difficult for me to choose just three recipes to share with you. But here it goes. First is salmon cakes, a hearty salmon chowder and finally a roasted salmon with soy sauce, brown sugar and orange.

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup minced onion

1 tablespoon minced green pepper

1/3 cup minced celery

1 pound cooked fresh salmon, flaked

¾ cup unflavored bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: In a medium skillet, melt one tablespoon of the butter, then add the onion, green pepper and celery. Cook, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is transparent. Cool mixture slightly, then place in a medium bowl and add salmon. Stir in the bread crumbs, chives, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties and chill for one hour. Heat remaining butter in skillet; add salmon cakes and cook over medium heat, turning once, until both sides are golden and centers are heated through. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with tartar sauce, french fries and cole slaw.

Salmon Chowder

Salmon Chowder

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups milk

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup tomato juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked fresh salmon, skin and bones removed, coarsely flaked

3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: In a small saucepan heat milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter, then sauté the onions and celery until soft and opaque, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour. Add hot milk and, stirring constantly, continue cooking over medium-low heat until mixture is thickened. Stir in tomato juice, salt and pepper. Add salmon and heat but do not boil. Sprinkle with parsley and dill and serve immediately. Serve with crackers, preferably saltines.

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

One 1.5 pound piece fresh salmon, cut into 4 equal portions

3 tablespoon soy sauce

2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

One small garlic clove, bruised

2 teaspoons orange zest

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange salmon pieces on foil. In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, orange juice, oil, garlic, orange zest and pepper. Remove garlic clove and discard. Carefully drizzle the mixture onto the salmon. Place baking sheet in top half of oven and roast for about 12 minutes, more or less depending on how you like your salmon cooked. Serve with broccoli rabe, spinach, Swiss chard or bok choy and rice.

By Barbara Beltrami

Even in the days when we can access any produce from just about anywhere all year long, when asparagus show up in great quantities in the supermarket at lower prices, when the stalks are pencil thin and the tips tight, we know spring has arrived and we can abandon the brussels sprouts and winter squash that have sustained us through the fall and winter.

It is not uncommon for asparagus to make their seasonal debut at Easter or Passover dinner and then to show up on our tables in many forms and preparations throughout the spring. In addition to the usual steamed, roasted or grilled versions, delightful themselves, there are so many ways to take advantage of this tender green veggie. Ever think of making an asparagus bisque with crab meat? Asparagus pesto? An asparagus and haricot vert (thin French green bean) salad with tarragon vinaigrette? Read on.

Asparagus Bisque

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed, then cut into one-inch pieces

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 leek, white part only, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ribs celery, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 large potato, peeled and diced

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup cream or milk

½ pound fresh or frozen and defrosted lump crab meat, broken into bite-size pieces

Fresh chives, for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Steam asparagus until soft and just on the verge of turning yellowish green. Heat oil in a medium skillet; add onion, garlic, leek, celery and potato; sauté until onion, leek and celery are opaque, but not golden and potato is soft but not mushy. Add asparagus, salt and pepper and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool until just warm and puree entire mixture in food processor until smooth. Add milk or cream and pulse a few times. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with crab meat and chives. Serve topped with crackers or croutons.

Asparagus Pesto

Asparagus Pesto

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh asparagus

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup pignoli nuts

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Wash and peel asparagus; snap off bottoms of stems. Slice into 2-inch pieces. Steam until asparagus are tender but still a nice bright green, 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of stems. Place in food processor; add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve at room temperature with linguine, spaghetti or any delicate pasta, gnocchi, crudités or toasted baguette slices.

Asparagus, Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound asparagus, steamed until tender but still bright green

1 pound green beans, sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces and steamed until tender but still a bright green

12 cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges

½ cup minced Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 to 3 scallions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, bruised

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one medium fresh lemon

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

1 level tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl toss together the asparagus, green beans, tomatoes and parsley. In a small bowl vigorously whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the dressing. When ready to serve, toss veggies with dressing. Tastes best if not refrigerated. Serve with chicken or fish and crusty French bread.

Curried Deviled Eggs

By Barbara Beltrami

No need to take a hard-boiled attitude toward the surfeit of Easter eggs. I know, I know. How many hard-boiled eggs can a family eat, especially when there are alternatives like marshmallow peeps, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies? Actually, quite a few if they are recycled into other dishes. For eggs-ample, egg salad with green onions and dill, curried deviled eggs and sliced egg canapes, all of which, by the way, make eggs-cellent hors d’oeuvres before Easter dinner.

Egg Salad with Green Onions

Egg Salad with Green Onions

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

8 hard-boiled eggs

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Peel eggs and chop into small pieces. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, green onions, dill and salt and pepper. Vigorously whip or stir. Cover and refrigerate until using. Serve with bread, crackers, chips, green salad or sliced tomatoes.

Curried Deviled Eggs

Curried Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 hard-boiled eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley or 1 heaping teaspoon dried

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Peel eggs and slice in half end to end. Gently scoop out yolks and place in small bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, curry powder, cayenne, parsley and salt and pepper. Vigorously whip together until mixture has a smooth creamy consistency. Scoop or pipe into hollowed egg whites. Cover and refrigerate until using. Serve with pickles, olives or celery and carrot sticks.

Sliced Egg Canapes with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Prosciutto or Anchovies

YIELD: Makes 16 canapes

INGREDIENTS:

16 slices of French bread (baguette), toasted

1 large clove peeled garlic

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 to 5 slices prosciutto or 16 anchovy filets

3 to 4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarter-inch slices

16 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Rub one side of toasted bread slices with garlic. Drizzle one teaspoon olive oil on each slice. Cut or tear each slice of prosciutto into approximate size of bread slice. If using anchovies, lay one anchovy filet on each bread slice and with a fork, mash into bread. Lay egg slices over prosciutto or anchovies to cover, then sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes on top. Do not refrigerate assembled canapes as bread will lose its crispness. Serve with wine, cocktails or soft drinks.

Matzo Brei

By Barbara Beltrami

Passover is the joyous Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the children of Israel in ancient Egypt from slavery to freedom. As they fled, they had no time for their bread to rise, and that is how we came to eat matzos (unleavened bread) for Passover.

The matzo has come to present itself in many forms, although I think everyone’s favorite is still that pale square megacracker that is a wonderful support system for everything from butter to horseradish to jam to salsa and everything in between.

Since Biblical times, it has also managed to evolve into matzo meal, which then has become the foundation for all sorts of delicious recipes. That being said, my all-time favorites are the traditional ones for matzo balls, matzo brei, and matzo meal pancakes.

Matzo Balls

Matzo Balls

The butt of many a joke, especially at the expense of mothers-in-law, these little round gems turn chicken soup into a treasure.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

¹∕₃ cup cold seltzer or club soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup matzo meal

DIRECTIONS: Beat the eggs, oil, soda and salt together. Stir in the matzo meal, adding just enough to make a stiff batter. Chill for at least one hour. Form into 18 balls and cook for 30 minutes in boiling salted water or broth. Serve with chicken soup.

Matzo Brei

Matzo Brei

Not as familiar perhaps as matzo balls, matzo brei is broken up matzos soaked for a short time in warm water or milk, then mixed with beaten eggs and fried. It makes a great breakfast or side dish, and with the addition of whatever your imagination dictates, a delicious main dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs, beaten

1 scant teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon grated onion (optional)

4 matzos

Butter or oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Combine the eggs, salt and onion (if using). Break matzos into large bite-size pieces and soak in water or milk until softened but not mushy. Add to egg mixture and stir well. In a medium skillet heat the butter or oil; then add matzo mixture to it. Fry until lightly browned and heated through. Serve with maple syrup, apple sauce or sugar. If using onions, serve with sour cream or soft cheese.

Matzo Meal Pancakes

Matzo Meal Pancakes

Because of their crispy exterior and light interior, these pancakes are a nice change from regular ones.

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 egg yolks

½ teaspoon salt ½ cup cold water

¾ cup matzo meal

3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Beat together the egg yolks, salt and water. Stir in the matzo meal; then gently fold in the egg whites. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil, then drop the batter, one heaping tablespoon at a time, into it. Turn once to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve with sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, fruit or jam.