Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

Barbara Beltrami

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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.

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

As often as we may observe or comment that someone is no spring chicken and well seasoned, there are some spring chickens of the farm variety that are young and tender and just waiting to be seasoned. It won’t be long now before we put away our slow cookers and pull out that barbecue, polish it up and start grilling. And nothing takes to the grill like chicken, especially if it’s marinated in or simply coated with a savory seasoning, sauce or rub. 

Whether it’s chicken parts such as thighs or drumsticks, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin into paillards or left thick and sliced, a cut-up broiler/fryer or a roasting chicken, special seasonings take that bird from plain and ordinary to gourmet glamorous. Apply the seasonings ahead of time, cover and refrigerate, and when it’s barbecue time or meal time, all you need to do is grill that lovely bird. 

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

 

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup white wine

1 shallot, finely chopped  

3 to 4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon each fresh thyme and oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients. Remove fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry. Place everything in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly and tilt to be sure all chicken pieces are coated; refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably more, up to 8 hours. When ready to cook, oil grill rack, then preheat grill to medium high. Grill chicken, turning once and basting frequently with marinade until brown on the outside and clear juices run on the inside, 5 to 10 minutes per side depending on thickness. Discard any unused marinade. Remove from grill, slice across grain and serve hot, cold or at room temperature with grilled veggies and wild rice.

Rosemary, Garlic and Mustard Marinated Chicken Thighs

Rosemary, Garlic and Mustard Marinated Chicken Thighs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 to 8 chicken thighs, depending on size

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper. Remove fat and skin (if desired) from chicken thighs. Place chicken in a shallow nonreactive baking dish. With a pastry brush or rubber spatula, coat the chicken on both sides with the prepared mixture; cover tightly and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours until ready to cook. Prepare and preheat grill to medium high. Grill thighs 8 to 10 minutes per side. Check for doneness, remove from grill and serve hot, warm or cold with fresh corn on the cob, ratatouille and sweet potato fries.

Chicken in Curry-Yogurt Marinade

Chicken in Curry-Yogurt Marinade

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

1 broiler-fryer, cut up

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, curry powder, lime juice, cayenne and salt. Lay chicken parts in a shallow dish and slather marinade over them. Place chicken and any remaining marinade in a resealable gallon bag and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. 

When ready to cook, prepare and preheat grill to medium high. Place chicken parts over direct heat, meaty sides down. Grill until outsides are a light brown (about 10 minutes), then turn the pieces and grill another 5 minutes. Remove chicken to indirect heat, close grill lid and grill 30 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Let sit for 10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or cold with tomato, olive and onion salad, rice and sautéed spinach.

Fresh Pea Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re thinking of not bothering to read this because you have better things to do than shell peas, relax. This article is about those emerald green ones that are an early spring crop and that you buy, if you happen to be  into shelling peas, in the produce department. Otherwise, you buy them frozen, and they’re almost as good, certainly good enough for the recipes that follow. If you think peas are half of the vegetable called peasandcarrots that you grew up with, think again. This is about fresh pea soup with mint, a lovely spring dish served hot or warm and a refreshing summer dish, served cold. It’s about pasta with peas, asparagus and arugula and, yes, for nostalgia’s sake, it’s even about peasandcarrots but in a tangy rice salad.

Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Pea Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

1 cup chopped fresh fennel

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

Two 10-ounce packages frozen peas or 5 cups shelled fresh peas

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and fennel and, stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until they begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth, peas, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper; then cook 10 minutes over medium heat until vegetables are tender but peas are still bright green. Reserve two tablespoons peas. 

Let soup cool 10 minutes; puree in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until just bubbling. Remove from heat. Ladle into soup tureen or individual soup plates; swirl in cream and garnish with reserved peas. Serve hot, warm or cold with soft rolls, tomato and cucumber salad and a crisp, dry white wine.

Spaghetti with Peas, Asparagus and Arugula

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches scallions, top third discarded, bottom two-thirds cleaned and sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup dry white wine

¾ cup chicken broth

1½ bunches asparagus, cleaned, bottoms of stalks removed, then sliced diagonally cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound thin spaghetti

One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed, or 2 cups shelled fresh peas

One 10-ounce package sugar snap  peas, thawed

1 bunch arugula, washed, destemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add olive oil. Add scallions and cook over medium heat until they are soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and white wine; cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Add chicken broth, stir and remove from heat. 

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling water until tender but still bright green about 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from water and set aside; reserve water. Cook spaghetti according to package directions in water from asparagus, then drain and place in skillet with scallions, garlic, wine and broth. Heat over medium low flame and toss with thawed peas and snap peas. 

When heated through, place in large pasta bowl, and toss with arugula, the one-third cup oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Serve warm with crusty Italian bread, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Cold Basmati Rice Salad with PeasandCarrots

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

5 to 6 cups cooked basmati rice

2 cups thawed frozen peas or 2 cups cooked shelled fresh peas

2 cups cooked diced fresh carrots

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

2 scallions, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed    lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be served at room temperature or cold with meat, poultry or fish.

By Barbara Beltrami

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that often dishes that start out cast in supporting roles end up being the stars of a meal. I’m thinking of things like potatoes au gratin or pasta with a creamy lemon sauce or polenta with green chilies. A dry overdone piece of meat or poultry doesn’t stand a chance next to a savory side dish; a piece of overdone or (worse) underdone fish pales next to such tasty accompaniments. And so, before you know it, a side dish becomes a main dish and, served up with a veggie or salad, takes on a life of its own. As with so many simple recipes, this is where you get to be creative and dream up your own versions and variations with additions or even deletions.

Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Lemon Sauce and Prosciutto

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¾ pound angel hair pasta (capellini)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 slices prosciutto, chopped

1 large shallot, minced

¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Juice and grated zest of two lemons

1 cup heavy cream

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter and oil and sauté the prosciutto and shallot for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the parsley, lemon zest and cream and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Add cooked pasta to skillet, toss to coat, then add lemon juice, a little at a time until desired tartness is achieved and cook over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed by pasta. Serve hot or warm with fresh asparagus, peas or a light green salad.

 Potatoes au Gratin

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

6 medium potatoes, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup minced onion

3 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups milk

½ cup half and half

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat bottom and sides of 2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange potato slices evenly in dish. In medium saucepan or skillet, melt three tablespoons of the butter; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft. Stirring constantly, add flour, salt and pepper; continue cooking until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat.  

Add milk and half and half, return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, then boil and stir for one minute, until it thickens. Add cheese and stir until it melts. Pour mixture over potatoes; sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes; remove foil and bake another hour, until liquid is absorbed by potatoes and top is golden brown. Remove from oven; let sit 10 minutes, then serve immediately with a crisp mixed green salad.

Polenta with Green Chili Peppers, Tomatoes and Manchego Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups milk

1 cup water

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

3 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

17-ounce can whole green chilies, drained and diced

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups grated manchego cheese

½ cup melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, cornmeal, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly with a wire whisk, bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

With a rubber spatula, scrape half the mixture into the baking dish; sprinkle half the chilies, half the tomatoes, half the grated Parmesan and half the manchego. Drizzle half the melted butter over top. Starting with remaining polenta, repeat procedure and finish with remaining melted butter. Bake about 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a spinach and mushroom salad.

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

By Barbara Beltrami

Some years ago, my husband bought a book on mycology and decided that we were going to pick our own wild mushrooms in the woods. My mind fast forwarded to our  virtual obituaries stating that the cause of death had been eating poisonous toadstools (sauteed in butter, white wine and shallots, of course). 

Preferring the fairy tale image of mushrooms in an enchanted forest populated by cute little gnomes and rejecting the legacy of my prehistoric female predecessors and early ancestral gatherers, I vehemently nixed the idea. Instead I frequented the produce aisles of high-end supermarkets to seek out wild mushrooms harvested by responsible and knowledgeable organic farmers.  

Eventually, the book and the idea were shelved, but not before we had eaten many varieties of mushrooms prepared in an even bigger variety of ways. While  button and Portobello are the most commonly available, shitake, cremini, oyster, morel, enoki and others are the most tasty, delicate (and expensive!) but well worth their price.

Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushroom Soup

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh porcini, morel or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 tablespoons minced Italian flat-leaf parsley

6 fresh mint or catnip leaves

4 cups beef broth

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 to 4 slices good Italian bread, toasted

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil; add mushrooms and herbs; sauté gently over medium heat until slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Rub toasted bread with garlic and place in bottoms of soup bowls. Ladle in soup and serve immediately with an omelet, cheese and light red wine.

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

YIELD: Makes 8 crostini

INGREDIENTS: 

8¼-inch-thick slices crusty Italian or French bread,  toasted

12 ounces brie, rind removed

2 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and very thinly sliced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat broiler. Cover each slice of toast with 1/8 of the cheese; place on a baking sheet 6 inches from broiler and cook just until the cheese melts. Transfer crostini to serving platter; top with mushrooms, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with  a dry white wine.

Sauteed Mushrooms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ pounds assorted mushroom varieties, cleaned and sliced

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat; toss in the mushrooms and do not stir them until they start to brown; stir them and continue to cook five more minutes. Add butter and cook another five minutes until they are nicely browned. Add garlic, mint, parsley, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately with eggs, meat or poultry.

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