Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

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Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

By Barbara Beltrami

Research on the internet informs me that sliders date back to the old White Castle hamburgers as well as to the Navy moniker for greasy burgers that slid onto the bun or plate. Their reincarnation has, like many resurrected concepts, produced a whole new phenomenon, most often a beef patty but also a mini-sandwich that can be anything from a turkey Reuben to eggplant parmigiana. Whatever their provenance, sliders are wonderful for large gatherings like Super Bowl parties. Along with the wings and the guacamole and the nachos and chips and dips, the pizzas and heroes and chili, sliders offer super football fare that can be easily grabbed, bitten into, chewed and swallowed in enough time to cheer or curse the latest play.

Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2½ to 3 pounds ground beef

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 slices cheddar cheese, halved

12 slider rolls

6 cooked bacon slices, halved

12 tomato slices

12 red onion slices

12 pickle slices

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill or broiler. Separate and pat meat into 3-inch discs, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes per side, more or less depending on desired doneness. One to 2 minutes before they are done, carefully lay cheese on top and continue cooking until cheese is melted. Arrange bottom halves of rolls on a platter, slide meat patties onto rolls. Add bacon, tomato, onion and pickles and serve immediately with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and lots of napkins.

Super Turkey Reuben Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

12 slider rolls

6 tablespoons prepared mustard

12 slices deli turkey breast, halved

One 14-ounce can sauerkraut, heated and well-drained

6 slices Swiss cheese, halved

¾ cup Russian dressing 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat broiler. Arrange bottoms of slider rolls on rack of large broiler pan. Spread half a tablespoon mustard on each one; add turkey breast. Next mound the sauerkraut evenly over turkey and top with Swiss cheese slices. Broil 1 or 2 minutes, just until cheese is melted. With a spatula, slide each bottom half with its toppings onto a platter, evenly spread top halves with Russian dressing and serve hot with potato salad and a pickle.

Super Eggplant Parmigiana Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 egg

1 to 1½ cups bread crumbs

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 half-inch-thick round slices eggplant

One 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or one teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or one teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or one teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil

24 half-inch-thick round slices narrow crusty Italian bread

1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced into 12 rounds

DIRECTIONS:

In a shallow bowl beat egg with 1 or 2 tablespoons water; in another shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the salt and pepper. Dip the eggplant slices first in the egg, then in the bread crumbs and then transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, the 2 tablespoons olive oil, the herbs and salt and pepper in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened. Set aside to keep warm.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add eggplant and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and blot with paper towels. Arrange 12 slices bread on rack of broiler pan, top each with an eggplant slice, then a slice of mozzarella. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Meanwhile, reheat sauce and remove eggplant from oven. Spoon sauce evenly over melted cheese, top with remaining bread slices, slide onto platter and serve hot or warm with marinated artichoke hearts, peppers and mushrooms.

Pureed Beet Soup with Yogurt

By Barbara Beltrami

I’ve always loved beets. My mother used to make wonderful pickled beets. And like so many then unpopular veggies she made, beets, along with kale, Swiss chard, kohlrabi and cauliflower, have finally been recognized as not only delicious but also healthful. 

Consider roasted beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Order up a plate of beet ravioli or risotto at one of the trendy Italian restaurants or have a bowl of beet soup with a snowy dollop of yogurt or sour cream floating on top. Or best of all, try my mom’s pickled beets. Beets and a whole new generation of veggies have come into their own or maybe it’s just a whole new generation that has discovered them.

Pureed Beet Soup with Yogurt

Pureed Beet Soup with Yogurt

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2½–3 cups chicken broth

4 cooked beets, chopped

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup half and half

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

4 sprigs fresh dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a small skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil 5 minutes or until opaque. In a large saucepan combine chicken broth, beets, tomatoes, onion and dill. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Remove from heat, adjust salt and pepper and let cool slightly. In a food processor or blender, puree in batches until smooth; add a little water if mixture is too thick. Return to saucepan and reheat over medium-low heat or cover and refrigerate if not using immediately. When ready to serve ladle into 4 plates and swirl a little of the half and half through soup, top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and sprig of dill. Serve with buttered toasted seeded rye bread.

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 whole beets

8 peeled garlic cloves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup torn frisée

1 cup arugula

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Scrub, peel and chop beets; peel garlic cloves. In a medium bowl toss the beets and garlic with the two tablespoons of oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spread beet mixture evenly over it. Roast 25 to 35 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the quarter-cup olive oil, vinegars, orange juice, honey, mustard and salt and pepper. Remove beets from oven; let cool 10 minutes. Toss frisée and arugula and place on salad plates; place tomatoes on top of greens, then beets, goat cheese and walnuts and drizzle with oil and vinegar mixture. Serve at room temperature as a side dish or appetizer accompanied by crunchy baguette slices..

Mom’s Pickled Beets

Mom’s Pickled Beets

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 to 6 medium beets, pared, chopped and cooked

1 medium onion, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Add the beets and onion and toss to thoroughly coat. Cover, and stirring frequently, refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Serve at room temperature with pot roast or goulash and noodles.

Traditional Lasagna

By Barbara Beltrami

Lasagna is the answer to a cook’s and diner’s prayer — a favorite one-dish balanced meal that’s always a palate pleaser. And with the availability of no-boil lasagna, which I think produces a lighter, more delicate pasta than the old-fashioned kind that is so difficult to handle, it’s really just a matter of precooking some of the fillings and assembling them in alternate layers with the pasta. Here are two versions.

Traditional Lasagna

Traditional Lasagna

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

½ pound crumbled Italian hot or sweet sausage meat

½ pound lean ground beef

½ cup dry white wine

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 28-ounce can tomato puree

One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Large pinch sugar

Pinch baking soda

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound ricotta cheese

1¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 large egg

½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nonstick cooking spray

1 pound no-boil lasagna sheets

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sausage meat and ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is golden and meat is brown. Add the wine; stir; then add the garlic, tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom. Next, place lasagna sheets over the sauce. Place six dollops of ricotta mixture on top of sheets and, with a large spoon or rubber spatula, spread evenly; top with sauce.  

Repeat procedure until lasagna sheets, ricotta mixture and sauce are used up, ending with lasagna sheets, then sauce on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling at sides. Remove the foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a tossed salad and a light red wine.

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium eggplant, cut into half-inch slices

2 medium green or yellow zucchini, cut into half-inch slices

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Nonstick cooking spray

One and a half 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 ounces goat cheese 

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound no-boil lasagna sheets

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Brush vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Coat two to three baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and place veggie slices on them; roast 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 400 F. 

Meanwhile in large skillet or saucepan combine tomatoes, garlic, herbs and the three tablespoons olive oil. Cook over medium heat for five minutes. Combine goat and Parmesan cheeses. 

Spread a little sauce in a 13×9-inch nonreactive baking dish; add lasagna to cover, the eggplants slices, overlapping if necessary, then 1/3 of the cheese mixture and finally enough tomato sauce to lightly cover. Repeat procedure using zucchini for second layer and mushrooms for third layer, ending with lasagna topped with tomato sauce. 

Cover with aluminum foil, bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a spinach salad and dry white wine.

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Cheese and Broccoli Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

I know of nothing to say to begin this column besides Happy New Year and then the obvious, thank goodness the holidays are over, the eating binge of rich food is finished, and I can go back to my reasonably healthy regimen of healthful eating with an emphasis on veggies, fruits, grains, fish, low carbs and low fats! 

And after all the holiday cooking, what better way to minimize preparation than by making a big pot of hearty soup that will include so many of those ingredients that are so good for you? In fact, make a couple of different kinds of soup, freeze them in meal or serving size containers and voila! you’ve got yourself some easy no muss-no fuss one-dish meals that leave you lots of time for that other important regimen, exercise!

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium onion, chopped

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

3 tablespoons sifted flour

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh broccoli florets

1 cup finely chopped fresh carrot

1 celery rib, trimmed and diced

1 cup each shredded sharp cheddar, Emmenthal or Jarlsberg and Gouda cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small skillet sauté the onion in two tablespoons of the melted butter until opaque, about 5 minutes. Set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the flour (add a few tablespoons hot water if mixture is too dry) about 3 to 4 minutes, until flour loses its gritty texture. Over medium-low heat and whisking constantly, alternately add the milk and chicken broth until mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes. Add sautéed onions, broccoli, carrot and celery; and stirring frequently, cook uncovered over low heat until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir cheese into mixture until it is melted; season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a crunchy salad and bread sticks.

Spicy Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks

4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced

4 cups chicken broth or stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup milk

1½ cups plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

In a large covered saucepan, steam squash and carrots until very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet sauté the onion in the butter until transparent, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer squash, carrots and onion to a large bowl; add about one cup chicken broth. Set aside to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. In a food processor or blender, puree vegetables with a little of the broth in a few batches. Transfer puree to a large saucepan or pot; stir in remaining broth, salt and pepper, nutmeg, ginger and milk and, stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until bubbling. Ladle into individual soup bowls and top each one with a dollop of yogurt. Serve hot with a kale salad and veggie chips.

Baked Stuffed Clams

By Barbara Beltrami

At this time of year, I love to ask any Italian-Americans I know what they are cooking for Christmas Eve because so many of them celebrate it with a grand meal that includes seven or more different kinds of fish, a custom most sources attribute to the Roman Catholic tradition of the fasting vigil awaiting the midnight birth of Jesus. 

What I enjoy about the answers I get is the incredible variety of fish courses that each family considers the absolutely inviolable menu. The only constant, as far as I can tell, is baccala, or salt-cured cod, and from there the meal proceeds on to a pasta, usually with some sort of seafood sauce, clams, shrimp, something fried and, in many extravagant cases, finally lobster. 

If you think of Christmas Eve as a special night or occasion, if you like fish, if you like Italian food, then by all means use these recipes and others or get yourself invited to one of these hours long repasts that surely is not just one of the highlights of the holiday but also one of the best Italian-American culinary traditions.

Baccala (Dry Salted Cod)

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound dry salted cod, cut into 3-inch pieces

1/3 cup olive oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

3 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS:

Changing the water at least 6 times, soak the cod in a bowl or pan of cold water for 24 hours in a cool place. Taste a piece to determine if it is too salty. If it is, soak longer. In a large pot heat oil, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add potatoes and stirring frequently, cook until golden brown. Add 3½ cups water to pan and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover pot, add tomatoes, capers, oregano, parsley, garlic and pepper flakes; stir; gently lay cod on top, cover pan and carefully turning fish once midway through, simmer until it is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with garlic bread and black or green Italian olives.

Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound spaghetti

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 to 6 salted or oil-packed anchovies, rinsed

½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, reserving ½ to 1 cup of pasta water. Meanwhile, in a small skillet combine oil and garlic and cook over low heat until garlic is softened but not browned. Add anchovies and with a fork, mash well; add pepper flakes, stir and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to keep warm, then toss with cooked spaghetti, adding some of the pasta water if too dry. Serve hot or warm with a well-chilled dry white wine and breadsticks.

Baked Stuffed Clams

Baked Stuffed Clams

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups bread crumbs, seasoned with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

24 cherrystone or littleneck clams, scrubbed and opened, top shell discarded

2 cups clam juice

2 lemons cut into wedges

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium bowl combine bread crumbs with salt and pepper; then add oil, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Place clams in nonreactive baking pan and carefully pack about two teaspoons of bread crumb mixture on top of each one, Being careful not to wash away bread crumbs, pour clam juice around clams. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until bread crumb mixture starts to brown. Remove from oven, drizzle a little of cooking liquid over them and serve hot with lemon wedges and prosecco.

By Barbara Beltrami

What kind of a food columnist would I be if I didn’t write about Christmas cookies every December? And what kind of a Scrooge would you be if you didn’t bake or at least intend to bake Christmas cookies every year? There are times when tradition rules, when you do certain things because you’ve always done them, because your mother and before that your grandmother have always done them and to not do them would be sacrilege. And there is nothing like gathering the kids in the kitchen and making it a tradition that they’ll carry on when it’s their turn. 

So here are some uber traditional Christmas cookie recipes — three different versions — cut, pressed and dropped — of the sugar cookie. I have no idea where or when they originated. I just know they’ve been the go-to recipes in our family for years and years. All are wonderful on their own, particularly when surreptitiously snatched from the voluptuously mounded cookie platter, and they all go well with tea, coffee, milk, hot chocolate, eggnog or any holiday spirits.

Spritz Cookies (Pressed)

Spritz Cookies

YIELD: Makes about 6 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

2½ cups flour

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl thoroughly combine butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract. Add flour and work in. Divide dough into quarters and place one quarter at a time into cookie press; using desired shapes, force dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 10 minutes until set but not brown. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes and decorate as desired.

Drop Sugar Cookies

Drop Sugar Cookies

YIELD: Makes about 3 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)

¾ cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon coarse salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 400 F. In large bowl, thoroughly combine eggs, oil, vanilla and lemon zest (if using); gradually add sugar and beat until mixture thickens. In another bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt and incorporate mixture into first one. Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet, flatten each mound with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool immediately on wire rack. Decorate as desired. 

Classic Sugar Cookie Cut Outs

YIELD: Makes 4 to 5 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine sugar, butter, vanilla and almond extracts and egg. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; then stir that mixture into first one. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or more. 

Heat oven to 375 F. Divide dough in half and roll out each half to ¼-inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered surface. Cut cookies and place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 7 to 8 minutes until light brown. Cool on rack 30 minutes, then decorate as desired. 

Gather unused dough into a ball and refrigerate or place in freezer to chill; then repeat roll out procedure. 

Miniloaves are a great gift idea for the holidays. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

There seem to be very few ways to escape the early onslaught of the commercialism of Christmas. With stores and websites foisting the holiday upon us almost as soon as we’ve put away our sandals and sunscreen, it loses its magic long before it even arrives.

I find that the best way to avoid that is to revert to what Christmas used to mean by making my own gifts. Nothing fancy or lavish, but something that shows originality, care and affection. I’ve made everything from potpourris to potholders, jams and tree ornaments, cookies and candles and candy, but I find that the easiest and most appreciated gifts from my kitchen have often been miniloaves of quick bread in inexpensive ceramic or foil loaf pans. Wrapped in colored cellophane and tied with a length of pretty ribbon, they’re always welcome.

Here are three of the many versions.

Banana Raisin Bread

Banana Raisin Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup golden raisins

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2)

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Soak the raisins in hot water. Preheat oven to 350 F and generously grease three 6- by 3- by 2-inch loaf pans. Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly. Combine the milk and lemon juice (don’t worry if it curdles a little). Slowly and alternately fold in the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and blending well, but not overmixing. Drain raisins and fold into batter. Divide batter evenly among three prepared loaf pans; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Bourbon Bread

Bourbon Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 egg, well beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup bourbon

1/3 cup brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F and generously grease and flour three 6- by 3- by 2-inch miniloaf pans. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, walnuts and sugar. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, egg, oil and bourbon; add to dry mixture and stir just until blended. Divide batter evenly among the miniloaf pans, sprinkle with brown sugar before baking. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with brandy, liqueur or chai tea.

Date Pecan Bread

Date Pecan Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup boiling water

8 ounces chopped pitted dates

Half a stick softened, unsalted butter

1¾ cup flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg

¾ cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F; generously grease three 6- by 3- by 2-inch miniloaf pans. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over dates; add butter, stir and let sit 5 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; stir in date mixture, egg and pecans; mix well but do not overmix. Divide batter evenly among three loaf pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with eggnog, hot spiced wine or dessert wine.

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Like any holiday, Hanukkah deserves a special dinner, something beyond the ordinary but not too far away from the traditional. Along with the potato latkes and doughnuts, the spinning of the dreidel and the Hanukkah gelt for the kids, there is that moment when families and friends gather to celebrate and share their holiday joy around the table. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a nice roasted chicken or a pot roast or hearty winter stew that everybody loves. But how about changing it up a little and doing a duck breast or sweet and sour brisket or Hungarian goulash? 

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 approximately half-pound duck breasts

2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

¾ cup orange juice

¼ cup honey

¼ cup soy sauce

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh orange slices for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Score fatty side of each duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern of approximately 1-inch squares. In a large resealable plastic bag combine zest, juice, honey, soy sauce and pepper. Add duck, turn to coat evenly, and reseal bag. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably 8 or overnight. Remove breasts from bag; set marinade aside. Place duck in a large heavy skillet; do not preheat. Frequently moving pieces around, cook over low heat, skin side down, and turning once, until fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cover and continue cooking until thermometer inserted in thickest part reads 120 F for medium rare (about 3 to 5 minutes), longer for more well done. 

Transfer to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour fat from skillet and discard or save for later use; replace with marinade; simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Place duck on platter, spoon sauce over it and garnish with orange slices. Serve with wild rice, Brussels sprouts and a good red wine.

Sweet and Sour Brisket

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2½ pounds beef brisket

1 onion sliced thin

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

1 bay leaf

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup very hot water

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 to 6 gingersnaps (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Place meat in heavy pot or Dutch oven; add remaining ingredients, except gingersnaps. Cover and simmer 2½ to 3 hours, until tender. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice as needed to balance the sweet and sour. If using, break up gingersnaps and stir into liquid from roast to thicken it a little. Slice and serve with sweet potatoes, green beans and carrots.

Hungarian Goulash

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds chuck, cut into 1½-inch cubes

2 tablespoons melted vegetable shortening or oil

6 cups beef stock

2 garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon paprika

DIRECTIONS:

Stirring constantly, brown meat in hot fat. Add stock, garlic, bay leaf, salt and paprika. Simmer slowly, 2½ hours; remove bay leaf and discard. Serve with broad noodles or mashed potatoes, cabbage or cauliflower and pickled beets.

Dolores’ Cranberry Cheddar Spread. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

So it’s Thanksgiving. Bearing foil-covered trays and pans, tracking in wet leaves, and offering sumptuous hugs and air kisses, here they are … your family and your friends and probably a couple of strays from work.

The turkey is nowhere near done, a fact which my mother-in-law, Rose, reminds me is because I didn’t do it her way. Uncle Hal is already smashed and proselytizing about the election. My 2-year-old great-nephew, Harley (named after his dad’s bike), is poking holes in the pumpkin pie. My great-niece, Opra (without the “h”), is wired to her iPhone. Aunt Dolores is already out on the deck having the first of many smokes, and  my sister Lynn unveils a bowl of her “famous Brussels sprouts” while I internally grimace and mutter, “You shouldn’t have.”

To get him out of the kitchen because his after shave lotion is so staggeringly overpowering that I’m starting to feel woozy, I ask my brother-in-law, David, to go to the family room and turn on the parade or game and take platters of nibbles with him. Predictably, others follow in his wake and start gobbling (pun intended) everything in sight as if there were no dinner coming soon.

I ask my brothers to swirl their wine glasses outside while they light the grill to cook the oysters. No one except Uncle Hal has had enough to drink yet to bring up politics, but that should get rolling any minute and reach a crescendo over what’s left of the pumpkin pie.

With apologies and wishes to all perfect and imperfect families, Happy Thanksgiving!

Dolores’ Cranberry Cheddar Spread

Dolores’ Cranberry Cheddar Spread

YIELD: Makes 24 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces softened cream cheese

2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons half and half

¼ teaspoon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne

3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, vigorously combine all ingredients except cranberries. Stir in cranberries. Place in a serving bowl and refrigerate or serve immediately with crackers and crudités.

My Grilled Oysters

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ sticks softened unsalted butter

4 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

2 tablespoons hot sauce

Scant half teaspoon coarse sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 dozen large fresh oysters, scrubbed but not opened

DIRECTIONS:

Place the butter, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until completely combined. Transfer to small bowl. Meanwhile, light the grill. When it is hot, place the oysters, flat side up, on a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill rack. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until they open. Using tongs and being careful not to spill any of  the liquid inside the shells, remove the oysters from the grill, remove the top shell and divide the prepared chive butter evenly among them. Return to grill, cover and cook until butter is mostly melted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully remove from grill and transfer to a platter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and toasted baguette slices.

Not My Sister’s Brussels Sprouts

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise

10 garlic cloves, peeled

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large pan, heat oil over medium high heat, then add sprouts, cut side down. Evenly distribute garlic, salt and pepper, and roast, shaking pan frequently, until sprouts are browned on bottom and tender inside, about 35 minutes, depending on their size. Remove from oven, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar. Serve as hors d’oeuvres immediately or at room temperature accompanied by a dry rose or white wine or as a side dish to dinner.

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s time to start thinking of dried fruit as something beyond an ingredient in trail mix or cereal. Sure, raisins are good, and we don’t think of them as anything but raisins when actually they’re dried grapes. A while ago prunes stopped being marketed as prunes and became dried plums. Dried cranberries are craisins. Ah, what’s in a name? In the recipes below you’ll find dried fruit in a couple of Middle Eastern recipes as well as in an easy dessert. Whatever their name, they all add a healthful and tasty dimension to otherwise ordinary dishes and are great on their own.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Green Olives

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Green Olives

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons olive oil

One 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 onions, finely chopped

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup pitted large green olives, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried Turkish apricots, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried figs, coarsely chopped

2 preserved lemons, cut into wedges

½ cup minced cilantro

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; place in pot and brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside. In same pot, melt butter; add garlic, onions and carrots, and stirring frequently, cook until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and saffron and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes, until they release their aroma.

Return chicken to pot; add stock, olives, apricots, figs and lemons and cook, partially covered, over medium low heat until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice and serve hot with rice or couscous.

Pilaf with Dried Fruit, Nuts and Chick Peas

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced

1½ cups basmati rice

1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

¾ cup chopped dried fruit

2½–3 cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cup chopped pistachios or almonds

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add onion and saute until opaque,  about 2 minutes. Add rice, chick peas, fruit, broth, mint and parsley. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat, stir in nuts and cover again. Let sit 15 minutes; add salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm with chicken or lamb.

Dried Fruit Compote

Dried Fruit Compote

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups water or 2 cups water and 1 cup white or red wine

2/3 to ¾ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 lemon wedge

¾ cup dried cherries

¾ cup dried pears

¾ cup dried apples

¾ cup dried plums

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except dried fruit and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Add dried fruit, cover and simmer 30 to 40 minutes; remove cover and continue to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes until liquid is thickened and slightly syrupy. Remove and discard cinnamon, clove and lemon. Serve hot, warm at room temperature or slightly chilled with cheese, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and ginger cookies.

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