Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

Barbara Beltrami

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Steamed Clams

By Barbara Beltrami

There are some foods that need all the help they can get for flavor, and there are other foods that are exquisite as they are and need very little or no help. With their briny natural flavor, clams are a perfect example of the latter. In fact, their only permissible enhancements should be fresh lemon or melted butter. Chilled, freshly opened and slurped from the half shell, they are peerless for succulence. Steamed and served with their own broth, they are voluptuously pleasing to the palate. And roasted or grilled, they are simply scrumptious. And in a sauce over a delicate pasta? Divine. Here are three basic recipes that feature clams with minimal secondary ingredients. It would be criminal to camouflage or detract from that sweetly brackish flavor.

Steamed Clams

Steamed Clams

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 pounds soft shell clams

1½ sticks unsalted butter

Juice of one lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

2½ cups cold water

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, cut into thirds

1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS: 

Soak the clams in a large pot of cold water, move them around a bit, let them settle, then change water and repeat procedure twice until clams are very clean and there is no sand in the bottom of the pot. In a small pan, melt butter over low heat, then add lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Set aside to keep warm. 

In a large pot combine the two and a half cups water, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes; add clams and cover pot. Check in about 5 minutes for clams to be open. Discard any clams that don’t open after a few more minutes. 

Transfer opened clams to a large serving bowl; set aside to keep warm. Remove and discard onion, celery and bay leaf; pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and stop before you get to the sediment at the bottom of the pot. Pour the hot broth into small bowls or cups, likewise with the melted butter and place one of each at each diner’s place. Put bowl of clams, accompanied by another bowl or two for discarded shells, in the middle of the table. Serve with ice cold beer, lots of crusty bread and plenty of napkins.

Roasted Clams

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

24 medium hard-shell clams

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ stick butter, melted

Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 450 F. Scrub clams under cold running water; arrange in shallow roasting or baking pan. Bake 5 minutes or until shells open; remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove top shell; serve on lower shell after sparingly seasoning with salt and pepper and drizzling or brushing with melted butter. Serve with freshly picked corn on the cob, sliced garden tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic bread.

Clam Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds littleneck or Manila clams, well scrubbed and rinsed

½ cup water or dry white wine

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ stick butter

1 handful parsley, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot, steam the clams in water or wine until they open. Remove clams from pot; discard any that do not open; reserve cooking liquid. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the clams from their shells, cut up any large ones and set aside to keep warm. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, cook garlic in butter 3 to 4 minutes until it releases its aroma. Carefully add the cooking liquid; be sure to leave residual sand in pot. Add parsley and pepper, then clams; cover and gently reheat, but do not overcook, when ready to serve. Serve with capelllini or linguine and a crisp green salad.

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

By Barbara Beltrami

Even in these days of political dissent, I think and hope that we all still remember what the Fourth of July is really about, the achieving of independence from tyrannical rule and the birth of our nation and the good old red, white and blue of our flag. 

Accordingly, I say Fourth of July food should be not just the traditional barbecue fare but also concoctions in red, white and blue. However, what blue foods are there except for blueberries and blue corn? So here in honor of Old Glory, our grand old flag, the birth and longevity of our nation, I offer you a cherry clafouti with mascarpone and blueberries, blue corn chip spread with sour cream and salsa, and watermelon, feta, cucumber and blueberry salad parfait.

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

½ cup flour

3 cups pitted fresh cherries

8 ounces mascarpone 

1 pint fresh blueberries, washed

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Vigorously whip together the milk, half the sugar, the eggs, vanilla, salt and flour until well emulsified. Grease a 2-quart casserole, then pour half the batter into it. Bake 7 to 10 minutes until it starts to set but a knife inserted in center does not come out clean. Remove from oven, evenly distribute cherries over top, sprinkle with remaining sugar, then remaining batter. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until clafouti is puffed and golden brown. 

Remove from oven and serve warm with a dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkling of fresh blueberries.  

Blue Corn Chip Spread

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups crumbled blue corn chips

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

One 8-ounce container sour cream

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons milk or cream

2 cups shredded manchego cheese

2 to 3 cups salsa

DIRECTIONS: 

Grease a large deep pie plate or 9×13 shallow baking dish with olive oil. Spread the crumbled corn chips evenly on the bottom. In a blender or food processor combine the cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper and milk until they are well blended and the mixture is smooth but thick. Spread over the crumbled chips, then sprinkle with manchego cheese. Finally, spread the salsa over the top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with whole blue corn chips, crackers, cold beer, sangria, lemonade or soda.

Watermelon, Cucumber, Blueberry and Feta Salad Parfait

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups bite-size watermelon pieces

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Place ½ cup watermelon pieces in each glass, next add 1/8 of the diced cucumber, then 1/8 cup blueberries and finally two tablespoons feta. Repeat procedure. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegars, salt and pepper; keep at room temperature. When ready to serve, uncover and drizzle dressing evenly over each parfait. Serve as an appetizer or side dish with bread sticks, crusty rustic bread and extra virgin olive oil in which to dip the bread.

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

By Barbara Beltrami

When June finally busts out all over, local strawberries will be at their peak. Despite their slow start because of the rain, they will be their usual juicy ruby red selves ready to be picked or purchased at local farms or those out east. There will be plenty for dropping into baskets and just as many for popping into our mouths as we move between the rows. When fresh strawberries are so naturally delicious without any adornment except maybe a little sugar and cream, anything further seems like sacrilege.  

On the other hand, when they’re that good, any recipe that features them is always that much better because those little gems themselves are so good. So when you get home from your strawberry picking with your baskets of ruby treasures, consider an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, a strawberry-arugula-radish salad with balsamic dressing or a strawberry sorbet.

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

 

Aunt Edith’s Strawberry Shortcake

YIELD: Makes 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and crushed

¼ cup sugar

2½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl combine the berries with the quarter cup sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl combine the flour, one-third cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs; stir in milk. Knead until dough forms, then, on a lightly floured surfaced, pat into a half-inch thickness.  

Using a 2½-inch cutter or the same-size upside-down glass, cut into 10 circles and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush egg yolks over tops, then sprinkle with two tablespoons sugar. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whip cream with remaining tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Split shortcakes in half horizontally, place on plates, then spoon whipped cream and strawberries in any order you wish and replace tops. Serve immediately with hot or iced coffee or tea.

Strawberry-Arugula-Radish Salad with Balsamic Dressing

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10 ounces fresh arugula, washed and dried

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

8 radishes, washed, trimmed and very thinly sliced

½ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 whole garlic clove, peeled

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Place arugula, strawberries and radishes in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for one hour. Remove and discard garlic. With a fork or small wire whisk, emulsify the oil, vinegars, juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over greens and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately as a first course or with meat, poultry or fish.

Strawberry Sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet

YIELD: Makes 1 quart

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts strawberries, washed and hulled

1 cup sugar

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ ounce vodka

Pinch coarse salt

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until there are no lumps left.  Transfer to another container, cover and refrigerate 6 hours. Place in an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions until mixture resembles soft ice cream.  Transfer one more time to airtight container and freeze at least 4 hours. Serve with crisp cookies, biscotti or pound cake.

Marinated Roast Pork Tenderloin

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s Dad, dear man, beer, martini or wine glass in one hand, fork, tongs or spatula in the other, standing in a rather large cloud of black smoke grilling our dinner. Nobody does it better. We know that and so does he, so how can we not let him do it almost every night? 

But on Fathers Day we have to draw the line. Even though he cooks those steaks to perfection, even though he’s got the magic formula for getting the chicken crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, we can’t have him slaving over a hot grill on his special day. Am I suggesting that we do the barbecuing? Of course not. We understand that the grill is his special territory. I’m just saying that we have to cook for him and pamper him so he knows how much we love him, the greatest grillmeister of all.

So what do we do? We make him a sumptuous but easy meal without the grill.  First we marinate a pork tenderloin for a few hours in the fridge, then remove it and cook it for a short time in the oven. Next we chill Dad’s drink(s) and park him in a lounge chair, microwave some enormous russet potatoes and we toss together a big salad with everything we can think of in it. Dessert has been made and frozen the night before, and we’re so organized that we can spend most of our time waiting on Dad hand and foot. After all, doesn’t he deserve it?

Marinated Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Marinated Roast Pork Tenderloin

INGREDIENTS:

One 2-pound pork tenderloin (they often come two in a package so you can cook one and freeze the other or cook both and use the second one for leftovers, sandwiches, etc.)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon A-1 sauce

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, A-1 sauce, tarragon, garlic, salt and pepper. Transfer to gallon-size re-closable plastic bag. Place tenderloin in a U-shape in bag, seal and turn bag in several directions to be sure all the meat is coated. Refrigerate in marinade at least two hours, open bag and rotate meat so all parts of it have a chance to soak in the marinade. Refrigerate one hour more.  

Preheat oven to 475 F. Place meat and marinade in a shallow roasting pan. Roast 25 minutes for pork that is slightly pink inside or 30 to 35 minutes for more well done. Let tenderloin rest for 15 minutes, then place on a cutting board and slice into 1-inch-thick rounds. Serve with baked potatoes with sour cream and/or butter.

The Everything Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 head red leaf or green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces

1 large tomato, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 cup chopped fennel

4 radishes, washed, trimmed and sliced

4 scallions, washed, trimmed and sliced

6 frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and quartered

2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded

1 medium fresh beet, peeled and shredded

1 cup cooked and sliced asparagus or string beans

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

¾ cup canned chick peas, washed and drained

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup good wine vinegar

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 handful basil leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill 

10 black olives, pitted and sliced

2/3 cup crumbled Roquefort, blue or goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup sunflower seeds

4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tomato, green pepper, cucumber, fennel, radishes, scallions, artichoke hearts, carrots, beet, asparagus, green peas and chick peas; toss well. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture over tossed veggies; toss again to coat evenly. Arrange or evenly distribute the basil, dill, olives, cheese, sunflower seeds and eggs on top. Serve immediately at room temperature with crusty bread and unsalted butter.


Frozen Banana Split Pie

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 to 8 brownies

1½ cups vanilla ice cream, softened

1½ cups chocolate ice cream, softened

1½ cups strawberry ice cream, softened

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 large banana, sliced

1/3 cup chocolate syrup

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

DIRECTIONS: 

In a 9-inch pie plate, mash, crush and press brownies into bottom and sides. Spread the vanilla ice cream over the brownie crust, then repeat with chocolate ice cream and finally strawberry ice cream.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, remove from freezer, uncover and spread sliced strawberries and bananas over top; let sit 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Drizzle chocolate syrup over top, then drop dollops of whipped cream over fruit and chocolate. 

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

By Barbara Beltrami

Will Rogers, that old comedian and homespun philosopher, once said that although an onion could make people weep, he had yet to find a veggie that could make people laugh; and Julia Child found it hard to imagine a civilization without onions. Carl Sandburg remarked that, “Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep”; and Ulysses S. Grant said he wouldn’t move his army without onions. All wise people. 

While I’ll never be quoted like these famous people, I will say that I can’t imagine being a cook without having onions on hand in my pantry. From ramps (actually wild leeks or wild garlic) to scallions to Vidalia onions, spring brings many varieties to us, but none is as sweet and easy on the palate as the Vidalia, in my opinion, the aristocrat of the onion family.

Pale golden and large, they make their appearance for a very short time, like right now, and even people who don’t normally like onions, love them. A nice slice of Vidalia on a hamburger or on a bagel with lox and cream cheese will bring you a great taste sensation. Stuff Vidalias, roast them with balsamic vinegar, or turn them into a hot dip or just use them in place of regular onions and enjoy their wonderful mild but savory taste.

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 Vidalia onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups finely chopped zucchini

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

¼ cup plain breadcrumbs

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice off top and a little bit of the bottom of onions. Place, top side up, in a shallow baking dish and cook for one hour, until soft, but not mushy. Remove from oven; lower temperature to 350 F. When onions are cool enough to handle, leaving a half-inch shell, scoop insides from onions. 

Save and chop one cup for stuffing and the remainder for another use. In a medium skillet, heat oil; add zucchini, garlic, thyme and basil and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Carefully spoon mixture into onion shells; bake in same pan until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a mixed salad, garlic bread and any meat or fowl.

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

YIELD: Makes about 5 cups.

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups chopped Vidalia onions

3 cups shredded fontina cheese

2½ cups good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat an ovenproof serving dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients and scoop into prepared dish. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until top is golden. Serve hot or warm with toasted focaccia and crudités.

Balsamic Roasted Vidalia Onions and Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into eighths

4 medium-large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges

13 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 

½ teaspoon sugar

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl toss all ingredients together to thoroughly coat. Place in a large, shallow roasting dish or pan (the size of a lasagna dish), cover with aluminum foil and roast 20 to 25 minutes, until potatoes are soft but not mushy and liquid is reduced to a glaze. Remove foil, toss to coat and continue roasting another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm with meat or fowl, and cooked greens.

Lettuce Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

By Barbara Beltrami

While the flowers that bloom in the spring (tra-la) may not provide a hearty repast for an appetite burning with spring fever (unless you’re a deer), many a posy  can be used as an ingredient that is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the nose and eye. If you want to make flowers a centerpiece for an elegant or informal spring or summer meal, by all means stick them in that Waterford vase or ceramic pitcher you made in pottery class. 

But if you want to adorn a gorgeous and memorable dessert, try candied violets and rose petals. And for one of the prettiest salads you’ve ever seen, toss in nasturtiums, pansies and lots of herbs. Looking for a knockout appetizer? Stuff squash blossoms with a mixture of ricotta, cream cheese and chives. So go on, get out there with the deer and feast on your garden.

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese

3 ounces whipped cream cheese 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup minced drained fresh tomatoes

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

12 squash blossoms (the ones that grow on stems, not attached to baby squash)

DIRECTIONS: 

In a food processor puree the ricotta, cream cheese and oil. Using a rubber or plastic spatula, scrape contents into a small bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, chives, salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or small resealable plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, seal, then snip a small diagonal corner off the bottom of the bag. Snip the pistils from inside the squash blossoms, and make sure no insects are hiding in there.

 Gently pry and hold the blossom open with one hand while you pipe about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the blossom with the other hand. Lay blossoms on a platter and serve at room temperature with focaccia and a chilled white wine.

Lettuce-Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

Lettuce Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups mixed baby greens

2 cups arugula

2 cups torn bibb lettuce

½ cup nasturtium leaves

6 lovage leaves, finely chopped (optional)

10 to 12 basil leaves, julienned

1 handful chives, washed and snipped

¼ cup vinaigrette or balsamic salad dressing

10 to 12 nasturtium blossoms

10 to 12 yellow pansies

6 chive flowers, chopped

DIRECTIONS: 

Wash and gently dry greens, arugula, lettuce, nasturtium leaves, lovage and basil. Toss with the chives in a salad bowl. Gently rinse and shake dry the nasturtium blossoms and pansies. Refrigerate all greens, flowers and herbs until 30 minutes before serving. When ready to serve add salad dressing and toss again. Sprinkle nasturtium blossoms, pansies and chive flowers on top of salad and serve immediately with tuna or chicken salad.

Candied Violets and Rose Petals

Candied violets on cupcakes

YIELD: Decorates one dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ to ½ cup violet blossoms

¼ to ½ cup rose petals

1 egg white

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ to ½ cup superfine granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS: 

Candied rose petals on a cake

Gently rinse and drain the blossoms and petals. Remove stems and then spread out to  dry for a short time, but not long enough to wilt. In a small bowl beat egg white until soft peaks form, then add vanilla and beat just enough to combine. Very carefully and gently dip blossoms and petals into egg white mixture; let violets drip a little, then dip them in sugar to entirely coat. Again handle them with great care. For the violets, try to open them a little with your fingers or a toothpick, then add a little sugar to the insides. For rose petals, just be sure both sides are coated with egg white mixture, then sugar.  

Place on a cookie sheet and let dry in the sun or in a warm oven no higher than 200 F.  When they are dry and sort of crispy, store in an airtight container lined with waxed paper. Serve as garnish for cake, cupcakes or ice cream.

Chicken legs and pork ribs smothered in Texas Barbecue Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

After the harsh winter and capricious spring we’ve endured, Memorial Day comes as a welcome harbinger of summer and all that it embraces. From picnic to pool party, beach to ball game, swimming and surfing and napping in a hammock, this holiday officially ushers in the season and all its pleasures and indulgences. Perhaps the first and most frequent herald, though, is the backyard barbecue. For pure anticipation, the aroma of something on the grill after a long day at the beach, in the pool or, on the flip side, plugging away in the heat is one of summer’s most welcome enticements. 

Let us not forget, however, especially in these troubled times, what the holiday is all about. Let us remember all the fallen soldiers who have not lived to enjoy these renewable pleasures of the season that we take so much for granted.

Here are four of many regional recipes for barbecue sauce guaranteed to whet any summer appetite. Depending on what part of the South or West you hail from, you will think that the barbecue sauce from your region is the only one worth dipping a basting brush into. 

For example, Texas barbecue sauce is, as you might expect, redolent with tomatoes and southwestern flavors like chili, whereas South Carolina uses a lot of mustard, which gives its sauce a yellowish hue. Go to Kansas City and you’ll find a sweet sauce that relies heavily on molasses, brown sugar and onion; but its rival, Memphis, boasts a tangy, thin sauce that calls for mustard and a big dose of vinegar. Basically, these recipes call for little more preparation than combining the ingredients. If your roots are in Brooklyn or Queens, you can impartially enjoy them all.

Texas Barbecue Sauce

Chicken legs and pork ribs smothered in Texas Barbecue Sauce

YIELD: Makes about 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups ketchup

1 large onion, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup A.1 sauce

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed      lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium nonreactive saucepan combine ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate or use immediately to baste steak, pork ribs or chicken legs during last 15 minutes of grilling. Pass any extra sauce with meal and serve with plenty of cole slaw and potato salad.

South Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Pulled pork on a bun smothered in South Carolina BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 3 to 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced 

2 garlic cloves, chopped and sautéed in one tablespoon vegetable oil until soft but not at all browned

2 cups prepared yellow mustard

2/3 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

1 teaspoon hot sauce

¾ cup sugar

One chicken bouillon cube, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat vegetable oil and sauté onion until golden; remove and set aside. Sauté garlic until soft but not at all brown. Remove and along with onion, add to remaining ingredients; puree together in electric food processor. Cover and refrigerate or use immediately to baste pulled pork or brisket during last 15 minutes of grilling. Serve with sweet potato fries, tomato and kale salad and ice cold beer.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Chicken smothered in Kansas City BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, bruised

½ cup tomato sauce

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet; add onion and garlic and sauté till soft. Add remaining ingredients, except liquid smoke, as well as one cup water. Stirring frequently, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in liquid smoke. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use or use immediately to baste chicken, pork or beef during last 15 minutes of grilling. Serve with fried green tomatoes, french fries and tossed salad.

Memphis Barbecue Sauce

A rack of ribs basted with Memphis BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, bruised

1/3 cup cider vinegar

¾ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup steak sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard

Dash of celery seed

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet; add onion and garlic and sauté till soft. Add remaining ingredients, except liquid smoke, as well as ½ cup water. Stirring frequently, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in liquid smoke. Use to baste beef, pork or chicken during last 15 minutes of grilling and serve with corn on the cob, cooked greens and fried potatoes.

Nicoise Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

As warm weather becomes the rule rather than the exception in this weird spring we’ve been having, our appetites and menus turn more and more to salads and their refreshing effect on our palates. 

Salads can be the main attraction of a meal if they contain lots of different ingredients including protein and are artfully arranged in a bowl or on a platter. These one-dish meals are called composed salads after the French “salade composee” and you’ve probably seen them on restaurant menus.

One  well known composed salad is Salade Nicoise (also after the French and meaning salad as it’s done in Nice). It’s a savory combination of potatoes, marinated in olive oil and vinegar; fresh or canned tuna; green beans; hard boiled eggs; anchovies; black olives; tomatoes and cucumbers all dressed with extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar.  

Another is the traditional Cobb Salad. Chock full of bacon, egg, tomatoes, roasted chicken breast, avacado, and Roquefort cheese, it is thought to have been invented back in the early 20th century by Robert Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood. 

And finally there is a composed seafood salad that I’ve recreated from one I remember at a tiny seaside restaurant on Cape Cod many years ago. As you might expect, it features cooked lobster, scallops, shrimp and cod plus fresh peas, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, chorizo sausage, boiled potatoes and fresh corn scraped off the cob. And of course, all three of these recipes call for underpinnings of tender seasonal lettuces. 

As with so many recipes I share with you, the real fun is not in duplicating these, but in using them as guidelines to create your own versions of these salads or even to invent your own completely original composed salad.

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 head Bibb or romaine lettuce, leaves, washed, dried and separated 

1 split chicken breast, roasted or poached and torn into large chunks

2 to 3 hard boiled eggs, quartered

2 cups cherry tomatoes, each sliced into halves

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into wedges

Juice of one lemon

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

1 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Line a serving bowl or platter with lettuce. Arrange chicken, hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes in a line or circle on top of lettuce. Brush avocado with lemon juice and add to arrangement. Add bacon on the side and crumble Roquefort cheese over everything. Serve with Roquefort or ranch dressing, rolls and butter and iced tea or coffee.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves washed, dried and separated

4 to 6 small new potatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One tablespoon or more wine vinegar

Half pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed

Two 7-ounce cans tuna 

4 hardboiled eggs, quartered

2 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into one-inch cubes

4 to 6 anchovy filets

1 cup Greek or Italian black olives

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS: 

Line bottom of large bowl or medium platter with lettuce leaves. Scrub potatoes and boil until just tender. Cut in halves or quarters; dress with olive oil and vinegar and set aside to cool, then pile in center of bowl or platter. Steam green beans until tender but still bright green. Immerse in ice water, let sit 5 minutes, drain and set aside. Drain tuna, separate into chunks and arrange over or around potatoes,  

Add green beans, eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers, then anchovies and finally olives. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; dress with extra virgin oil and vinegar right before serving. Serve with French baguette slices, unsalted butter and a cold, crisp, dry white wine.

Cape Cod Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 head iceberg, romaine or red leaf lettuce, washed, drained and dried

3 cups cooked lobster meat, cut into large chunks

1 pound cooked sea scallops

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1 pound cooked cod or salmon, broken into large chunks

One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed

2 cups cherry tomatoes

2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and cooled

1/2 pound cooked chorizo sausage, sliced

Fresh corn, scraped off 2 cobs

6 to 12 small new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

One 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

3 to 4 lemons, cut into wedges

1 cup snipped fresh chives

DIRECTIONS: 

Line a very large platter with the lettuce. Arrange the remaining ingredients, except for the chives, in circles around the platter in whatever order you desire. Sprinkle chives on top. Serve chilled with a variety of dressings such as mayonnaise, green goddess, vinaigrette, Russian and cocktail sauce and a well-chilled Chablis. 

Chocolate-Raspberry Muffins

By Barbara Beltrami

You love Mom. Mom loves you … and chocolate. What a treat for her to have not just breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day but a chocolate breakfast in bed. Imagine how delighted she will be to awaken to a beautiful tray (with a flower on it, of course) and discover chocolate-raspberry muffins, white chocolate chip pancakes or a chocolate banana smoothie. Of course, you don’t have to do all of these, but you can. And the following recipes are all for multiple servings, so you can jump onto the bed and join Mom! Whatever you decide, don’t forget to include a cup of nice hot coffee or tea for her to sip along with all her goodies. And another thing:  Remember to be kind and sweet and helpful to Mom all day long, just as you always are. 

Chocolate-Banana Smoothie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups milk

2 bananas

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS: 

Place all ingredients in a blender and liquefy until thick and foamy. Serve immediately with muffins, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit or a granola bar.

Chocolate-Raspberry Muffins

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

¾ cup chocolate chips

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 cup raspberries

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease or line muffin tin with foil or paper cups. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk, vanilla and butter. Stir in raspberries. Bake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with hot coffee or tea.

White Chocolate Chip Pancakes

White Chocolate Pancakes

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

½ stick unsalted butter

1 cup milk

1¼ cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup white chocolate morsels

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small saucepan warm the butter and milk, but do not let it boil. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs; add the butter and milk mixture, then the dry ingredients and the chocolate morsels just until blended. Melt 1 tablespoon butter on a griddle over medium heat; ladle one-quarter cup of batter for each pancake onto the griddle. When bubbly, flip and cook 30 seconds more. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup and bacon.

Baby Zucchini Boats

By Barbara Beltrami

Call them what you will … hors d’oeuvres, appetizers or tapas. In Spain and Portugal, tapas abound in many bars, and at least one legend has it that long ago an innkeeper put a slice of cured ham on top of a glass of wine to keep the flies away, as a makeshift lid. To cover in Spanish is “tapar,” so a lid is a “tapa” — hence the name. 

Depending on how many or how few you pop or scoop into your mouth as you’re sipping your wine or beer, they will either whet or whip your desire to proceed to the main attraction, the meal that is sometimes meant to follow. In fact, in Spain and Portugal, it is part of the culture to stop by a bar to sit and relax and share a few little plates of tapas, often twice a day. While they can be anything as simple as a well-cured olive on a toothpick, they can also be as complex as an artichoke stew or empanada.  

Eaten as a snack, a first course or a prelude to a meal, tapas are rapidly becoming standard fare in American cuisine as well. So think of anything savory, serve it in small portions and you’ve got tapas. And doesn’t that sound so much better than munchies, finger food or snacks?

Garlic French Toast

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs

A few drops water

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 slices crusty bread

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl beat the eggs and water; add garlic, salt and pepper and beat again. Transfer egg mixture to a large shallow baking dish, add bread slices; soak for 30 seconds, then turn and let sit until all the egg mixture has been absorbed. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet until hot. Fry bread, turning when bottom is golden., about 1 minute. When other side is golden, remove immediately or garlic will burn. Serve hot or warm with a red or white sangria.

Colossal Shrimp with Anchovies  and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 wooden skewers (about half the size of a pencil)

6 colossal shrimp, peeled, deveined and boiled

6 anchovy fillets

6 cherry tomatoes

½ cup mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS: 

On each skewer, spear a shrimp, anchovy fillet and tomato. Cover and chill until ready to serve with mayonnaise as a dip. Serve with ice cold beer or a chilled crisp dry white wine.

Stuffed Baby Zucchini Boats

Baby Zucchini Boats

YIELD: Makes 16 pieces

INGREDIENTS: 

8 tiny zucchini (about 4 to 6 inches long)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, minced

½ pound ground beef, lamb or sausage

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ pint plain Greek yogurt

1 fresh medium tomato, finely chopped

8 mint leaves, minced

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a shallow 8×13-inch baking dish. Wash zucchini, trim off ends and halve lengthwise. With a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out seeds and pulp; chop pulp and reserve. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil; add onion, meat, lemon zest and chopped zucchini. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and meat is brown, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Add tomato paste, a tablespoon or two of water, garlic and sugar; stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the yogurt, chopped tomato and mint leaves. Remove from heat and spoon mixture into hollowed out zucchini. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese. Place filled zucchini in prepared dish and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese melts.

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