Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

Barbara Beltrami

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What are you thankful for this holiday season?

By Barbara Beltrami

This year we’re spending Thanksgiving at the home of friends … friends whom we think of as family, and we’ve been asked to bring a dish we remember from the Thanksgivings of our childhood.

I’ve been delving deep into my memories of those days. I do remember that while the turkey was in the oven we always went to the local high school football game where I spent the time enviously ogling the cheerleaders and their oh-so-grown-up hairdos and outfits. Later, after glasses of claret for the women and Rob Roys for the men, we would cluster around Uncle Bob as he carved the turkey with his new-fangled electric knife, surreptitiously snatch pieces of the skin that fell away and vehemently blame each other when we got caught.

Nothing varied from year to year; the menu was ironclad and to stray from it with any innovation was considered sacrilege. And so, with the “bird” and its giblet gravy, we had yams baked in their skins, mashed potatoes, stuffing laced with crispy onions, cauliflower, string beans, creamed onions and sliced cranberry sauce straight from the can. No pies except apple and pumpkin were dessert worthy, although I do seem to remember somehow pecan pie miraculously crashed the party and joined them at some point.

Years later when I married and had my own family, I began my own set of menu traditions that in some cases were spin-offs of a few of the ones I had grown up with. What follows are ones that have become my own customs and rituals over these many years. That’s one of the great things about Thanksgiving; it is made of traditions and memories and, no matter what they are, they’re yours.

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

YIELD: Makes stuffing for a 20- to 24-lb turkey

DIRECTIONS:

Two 16-ounce packages prepared herbed cornbread stuffing mix

5 to 6 cups hot broth

½ pound unsalted butter, melted

¹/3 cup olive oil

3 medium onions, diced

3 celery ribs, cut into half-inch slices

Two 14-ounce cans peeled and cooked chestnuts, drained and diced

4 Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and diced

2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a very large bowl combine the stuffing mix with the broth and butter according to package directions. In a large skillet heat the oil for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the onions all at once and stirring frequently and cook over medium high heat until they are brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix.

Lower the heat to medium low and in same skillet sauté celery and apples until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix, along with diced chestnuts. Add parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper (taste first because mixture may already be salty enough).

Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Before placing inside turkey, be sure that it is approximately the same temperature as stuffing. Serve with turkey and all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day and the next day with turkey and cranberry sauce in a sandwich.

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 large yams or sweet potatoes, pared and cut into 3- to 4-inch slices

1 cup orange juice

½ cup maple syrup or honey

1 cup brown sugar

1 partially frozen stick butter, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sweet potato slices in a greased large baking pan. Drizzle orange juice and syrup over them, sprinkle brown sugar on top and then dot with pieces of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and tops are crispy. Serve with turkey and all the fixings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted brussel sprouts

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups golden raisins

2 cups apple juice or cider

3 pounds Brussels sprouts

Salt, to taste

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan large enough to easily hold the Brussels sprouts. In a medium bowl, combine the raisins and the apple juice and let them soak until plump. Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer and sprinkle with salt, then steam them 5 to 6 minutes, until bright green but not cooked through. Drain the raisins, reserve liquid for another use or discard.

In a large bowl combine the Brussels sprouts, raisins, olive oil, rosemary and black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then place in baking pan. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are tender in center and turning golden on outside. In a small pan or microwave, heat the balsamic vinegar; place the sprouts in serving bowl and drizzle the vinegar over them. Serve hot or warm with turkey and all the fixings.

Lentil Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Lentils may not be the most attractive foods when cooked, but they do pack a powerful nutritional and delicious wallop. Low in fat and high in protein and fiber, they are a staple of many Asian cuisines.

When I looked them up in my old cookbooks, they often were absent. However, in my newer and more recent cookbooks, they occupy a whole column in the indexes, a gift of the many immigrants and ethnicities that have become a part of our American culture.

I would venture to say that lentils are one of the go-to elements for ethnic as well as vegetarian recipes and are an ideal addition to anyone’s pantry for a quick-cooking, tasty and nourishing dish that welcomes and complements other flavors. From the familiar greenish-tan ones to tiny green Puy lentils to red (actually salmon pink) lentils, with many other varieties along the spectrum, their mild earthy flavor has captured many a palate.

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup green Puy or black beluga lentils, rinsed

2 teaspoons salt

1 large garlic clove, minced

12 ounces fresh tomatoes, chopped

²/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 handful fresh dill, chopped

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Fill a large saucepan with one quart cold water; add lentils, garlic and two teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss hot lentils with tomatoes, scallions, dill, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm with lamb or chicken and tossed green salad.

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups lentils

9 cups cold water

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced thin

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS: Place lentils in a large pot and cover with the 9 cups water; add salt and pepper, onion, celery, carrot, thyme, bay leaf and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf and discard. Scoop out 2 to 3 cups of the lentil and vegetable mixture and puree in a food processor. Return puree to remaining soup, stir and bring back to a boil. Stir in vinegar, a tablespoon at a time, until just a hint of its flavor is evident. Serve hot with cucumber salad and hearty bread.

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil Curry

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder

2 cups diced carrots

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 cup red lentils

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 handful fresh chives, chopped or sliced

DIRECTIONS: In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and scallions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, carrots, sweet potato, lentils, broth and salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils and veggies are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. Serve hot with naan bread and rice.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

By Barbara Beltrami

Mark Twain, that delightful old curmudgeon, called cauliflower “a cabbage with a college education,” a proclamation that today would probably be found politically incorrect in some way by someone. I prefer to call cauliflower a vegetable with autumn in its soul — especially here on Long Island where cauliflower farms still exist out on the East End. For me, no autumn is officially ushered in until I have made a pilgrimage to the North Fork, until I have bought too many enormous heads of cauliflower for a couple of dollars a piece at most from some roadside flatbed truck.

Heading home with the late afternoon sun slanting against the windshield, there will also be baskets and sacks of late season tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, Brussels sprouts and peppers, of Seckel pears and cider and gourds and weird shaped pumpkins all wedged into the car’s trunk.

But it will be the cauliflowers I covet most as I watch the russet leaves drift roadward. It will be the cauliflower I single out for that night’s dinner as I stuff the refrigerator’s vegetable drawers with my afternoon’s harvest. For dinner there will very likely be a pasta with cauliflower and sausage. Another night there will be a savory cauliflower salad or hearty cauliflower mashed potatoes. The following weekend I will get out my canning equipment and put up jars of chow-chow with many more little cauliflower florets than the recipe calls for. And my husband, who is also a big cauliflower fan, will nevertheless be relieved that my annual cauliflower fest is over.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

 

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta, preferably ziti or shells

3 sweet Italian sausages

1 medium cauliflower broken into small florets

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ pounds fresh Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

¾ cup freshly grated pecorino or romano cheese

DIRECTIONS: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile in a medium skillet, cook the sausages over medium heat until browned on all sides; remove and set aside to keep warm. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-size pieces. Steam the cauliflower until it is al dente (slightly resistant to the bite), about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In same skillet used to cook sausages, heat half the olive oil over medium heat: add tomatoes, half the garlic and the thyme. Season and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until most of the liquid is evaporated. In another medium skillet, heat the remaining oil, add the remaining garlic and steamed cauliflower and sauté until cauliflower is slightly golden. Add the sliced sausages to the cauliflower and continue cooking until sausages are reheated.

Pour cooked pasta into a large bowl, top with tomato mixture, then sausages and cauliflower. Adjust seasoning, then sprinkle with grated cheese. Mix at the table and serve with fried peppers, crusty bread and a crunchy green salad.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium head cauliflower, in pieces

6 potatoes, pared and coarsely chopped

½ stick butter

¹/3 cup milk or cream

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup pignoli nuts

DIRECTIONS: Steam the cauliflower and potatoes until they are very soft, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a large soufflé dish or casserole. Mash cauliflower and potatoes by hand to break up pieces. Transfer to large bowl of electric mixer. Add butter, milk or cream, eggs and salt and pepper. Beat slowly at first, then increase mixer speed gradually until mixture is smooth. Stir in raisins. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle top with pignoli nuts. Bake until mixture is hot and pignoli nuts are golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with meat or poultry and a mixed salad. This is a revision of an article written by the author and published in this newspaper in 1989.

Cauliflower Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

4 flat anchovy fillets, minced

½ cup oil-cured black olives

¼ pound feta cheese, diced

¹/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings, then chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Steam the cauliflower until just tender, about 5 minutes; let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl combine the capers, anchovies, olives and feta cheese with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Combine with cauliflower. Cover and let the cauliflower marinate at room temperature at least an hour. Just before serving, add the onion, tomatoes and dill. Serve with meat or poultry, pasta or eggplant.

Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

‘Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,

Had a wife and couldn’t keep her;

He put her in a pumpkin shell

And there he kept her very well.’

— Mother Goose

Poor Peter — a sad story of a husband who was still living in the 19th or even 20th century. He just didn’t get it. Perhaps, if he had respected her freedom, he wouldn’t have had a problem with her. She would have been glad to cook him all kinds of wonderful treats, like pumpkin walnut bread to savor with his morning coffee; or she could have simmered him a nice pot of creamy pumpkin soup to slurp contentedly with a glass of wine after a hard day’s work. Or maybe if they had had a better understanding of each other, they could have planned a date night and cooked some delectable dishes together like ravioli with pumpkin sauce.

The following recipes may not exactly liberate your kitchen or your relationship, but they will liberate you from the notion that pumpkins are good for nothing more than jack-o’-lanterns and pies.

Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce

Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 12-ounce package of fresh cheese-filled ravioli

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 cup pureed fresh pumpkin (or canned if you can’t be bothered!)

1 cup chicken broth

¾ cup cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano)

DIRECTIONS: Cook ravioli according to package directions. Set aside to keep warm. Place medium saucepan over medium heat; add oil, then onion, garlic and rosemary and cook over medium heat just until garlic and rosemary begin to release their aromas and onion is translucent. Remove rosemary and discard. Stir in pumpkin puree, chicken broth, cream and salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until mixture is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep on lowest possible heat while you transfer ravioli to serving bowl. Top ravioli with pumpkin sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve hot or warm with a green or mixed salad and rustic bread with extra virgin olive oil.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

YIELD: Makes one loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup cooked pumpkin, pureed and drained of all excess liquid

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and mix thoroughly. In another medium bowl, combine pumpkin, sugars, milk, eggs and butter and stir in to dry mixture. Fold in walnuts. Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan and finish cooling on rack. Serve with butter, cream cheese or apple butter and mugs of hot coffee, tea or chocolate or glasses of ice cold milk.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil (or more, if needed)

2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 large onion, diced

2 cups chicken broth

Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh sage, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups milk or light cream

4 whole sage leaves

DIRECTIONS: In a large heavy skillet, heat butter and oil; add pumpkin, apple and onion and cook until very soft, about 30 minutes. (Add a little water if it starts to dry out or brown too fast.) Stir in chicken broth, sage, salt and pepper and cook 5 more minutes. Let cool 10 or 15 minutes, then puree mixture in processor or blender. Transfer to large saucepan over low heat and using a wire whisk, beat in milk or cream. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture begins to thicken and is on the verge of boiling. Serve hot garnished with whole sage leaves and accompanied by local broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.

This is a revision of an article written by the author and published in this newspaper in 1988.

Deep Dish Apple Pie

By Barbara Beltrami

Eden. A garden. Adam and Eve. That apple. Not a pear or a persimmon or a pineapple, mind you. An apple whose invitational impact launched one of the biggest, if not the biggest, succession of events ever. I don’t know what variety that first apple was, but we descendants have more varieties to choose from that you can shake a candy apple on a stick at, and many of them are grown right here in our own state. So here we are eons later still tempted by that apple and turning it into everything from sauce to pie to chutney to cake to cider and that’s the short list. If you think it was easy deciding what apple recipes to share, guess again. Anyway, here’s how I’ve narrowed that selection.

Apple Coffee Cake

Apple Coffee Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups peeled, cored and sliced

Granny Smith apples (about 6)

5 tablespoons + 2 cups sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Scant teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable or corn oil

4 eggs

¼ cup apple juice

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch tube pan. In a medium bowl combine the apple slices, five tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 2 cups sugar into a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in oil, eggs, apple juice and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon until well blended. Drain the reserved apple mixture of excess liquid. Spoon one-third of the batter into prepared pan. Arrange half the apple mixture in a circle on top of the batter. (Make sure no apples touch the side of the pan.)

Repeat procedure with another third of the batter, then the remaining apple mixture and finally the last third of the batter. Bake for 1 to 1¹/₄ hours, until cake tester inserted in middle of circle comes out clean. If top browns too much before inside is done, cover with aluminum foil. Cool to lukewarm; invert onto serving plate. Serve with whipped cream and steaming mugs of coffee or tea.

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 to 8 slightly tart apples

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 pie crust (10 inches or more)

2 to 3 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel, core and cut apples into thin slices; place in baking dish or deep pie dish. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, spices and flour; sprinkle mixture evenly over apples. Dot with butter. Gently place pastry on top, fold edges under and press them against rim of dish with fingers or fork tines. Brush crust with milk. Bake 40 minutes or until crust is golden and apples are tender. Serve with vanilla ice cream or cheddar cheese.

Crispy Baked Apples

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 tart apples, cored, then peeled halfway down

3 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons flour

½ cup brown sugar

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 425 F. Place apples, peeled side up, in a baking dish. Combine the butter, flour and sugar and pat it onto tops of apples. Bake at 425 F until crust is set; lower oven to 350 F and continue to bake until apples are tender (about 30 minutes). Serve with unwhipped heavy cream.

New England Clam Chowder

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re wondering what the difference is between soup and chowder, don’t ask me. I have no idea, nor can I find anyone who knows. I do know they both are chunky mixtures with some featured ingredient usually enhanced by potatoes, celery and onions, sometimes cream, sometimes broth, often bacon and a few other veggies or herbs.

Most chowders I’ve come across emanate from New England, feature clams or local fish and are thick and creamy … except for Rhode Island’s which has a relatively clear broth and is full of the above-mentioned seafood as well as lots of diced veggies. Moving down the eastern seaboard we come to New York and its Manhattan clam chowder (which appalls New Englanders, by the way), which features tomatoes as well as lots of the potatoes and celery and generous sprinklings of thyme.

Then there is Maryland and its crab chowder. All this is not to say that chowders are indigenous to the east coast and middle Atlantic states. Further south chowders feature shrimp and other local products and across the continent it is hardly surprising to find salmon chowder from Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

What this tells us is that the best food comes from the nearby land and sea and that what is available is the engine that drives local and regional recipes. In the interests of geographic diversity I offer you New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder. And some other time we’ll go into all the vegetarian versions of chowder … corn, bean, veggie, tofu … all of which corroborate my opening question. Really, what is the difference between soup and chowder?

All this is not to say that chowders are indigenous to the east coast and middle Atlantic states. Further south chowders feature shrimp and other local products and across the continent it is hardly surprising to find salmon chowder from Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

What this tells us is that the best food comes from the nearby land and sea and that what is available is the engine that drives local and regional recipes. In the interests of geographic diversity I offer you New England Clam Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder and Pacific Salmon Chowder. And some other time we’ll go into all the vegetarian versions of chowder…corn, bean, veggie, tofu…all of which corroborate my opening question. Really what is the difference between soup and chowder?

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 slices thick bacon, cut into thin strips crosswise

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium onions, diced

3 celery ribs with leaves, diced

4 cups clam broth

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

One whole bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

2 cups chopped cooked clams, preferably fresh

DIRECTIONS: Place a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp. Remove pan from heat, drain bacon fat from pan, but leave bacon. Add butter to pan. Melt over low heat, add onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until the pieces are opaque and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the clam broth, potatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and salt and pepper; cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes; discard bay leaf. Scoop 1½ cups of solids and ½ cup of liquid out of pot and transfer to food processor. Puree until smooth, then return to pot. Add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in clams and serve immediately with saltines, oyster crackers or pilot crackers.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan Clam Chowder

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 dozen cherrystone clams

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2½ cups diced onions

2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced carrots

One large clove garlic, minced

3 cups diced tomatoes

2½ cups dry white wine

3 cups peeled diced potatoes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Place 3 cups water and clams in a large shallow pan; cover and cook over medium heat until clams open, 5 or 6 minutes. With tongs remove clams from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Strain liquid several times through fine mesh sieve; set liquid aside. Place oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook a few minutes until vegetables are slightly softened. Add tomatoes, 2½ cups of the clam broth, the wine, 4 cups water, the potatoes and herbs and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile remove clams from shells, dice, add to pot and simmer 3 to 5 minutes until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with saltines, oyster crackers or garlic bread.

Pacific Salmon Chowder

Pacific Salmon Chowder

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices bacon

½ cup diced onion

2 cups very hot fish broth

1 cup diced potatoes

1 pound fresh salmon, skinned, boned and cubed

2 cups hot milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble; set aside. Saute onion until tender in remaining bacon fat. Gently and carefully pour in hot fish broth and potatoes and cook over low heat until potatoes are tender. Add salmon and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Add milk, reserved bacon, salt, pepper and herbs and gently reheat. Serve with buttered pumpernickel toast and cucumber salad.

Carrie's Plum Crumble

By Barbara Beltrami

When little Jack Horner sat in a corner, stuck his thumb in a pie and pulled out a plum, I wonder if he knew what a prize he’d managed to get his hands on. There is something about cooked plums that far supersedes fresh raw ones, in my opinion. No matter how delicious the fresh fruit’s pulp may be, that sour skin is unpleasant. But when plums are cooked, stewed or poached with a little water and sugar, roasted or baked in a pie, cake, tart or crumble, they go through a magical metamorphosis as they release their sweet purple juices and become velvety and succulent. The recipes that follow are especially good made with plums but are also delicious when any stone fruit is substituted.

Plum Upside Down Cake

Plum Upside Down Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

¹/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

6 to 8 medium plums, halved and pitted

1½ cups flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

3 large egg yolks

½ cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8½-inch round springform pan. Line bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Melt two tablespoons butter; pour into pan and tip to distribute evenly over bottom. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter. Arrange plum halves, cut-side down, over brown sugar; leave as little space as possible between plums to allow for shrinkage during cooking. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the remaining 10 tablespoons butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extracts, then the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beating continuously, add half the flour mixture, then the sour cream, then the remaining flour mixture. Pour batter over plums and spread evenly. Place on rimmed baking sheet on middle rack of oven and bake one hour or a little more until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for one hour. Run a sharp knife around edge of cake, loosen ring of cake pan, then place plate on top of cake and invert onto plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Carrie’s Plum Crumble

Carrie’s Plum Crumble

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

1¼ cups flour

¾ cup oats (not quick cooking)

¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

2 pounds plums, pitted and cut into wedges

1 tablespoon apple or cranberry juice

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep 9-inch round or square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, nuts (if using), half the sugar and cinnamon. Add the butter and with fingertips rub it into the flour mixture until it forms moist clumps. Toss plums with remaining sugar and juice together; transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle crumb topping over plums; bake until top is golden brown and fruit bubbles. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Roasted Plums with Balsamic Vinegar and Mascarpone

Roasted Plums with Balsamic Vinegar and Marscapone

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds plums, quartered and pitted

2 tablespoons butter, melted

4 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons sherry or port wine

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup mascarpone

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the plums, butter and brown sugar; toss well to coat. Place plums with any remaining butter and sugar on parchment. Bake 15 minutes or until plums are softened and release their juices. Meanwhile in a small saucepan bring sherry or port to a boil, over medium heat; continue cooking until liquid is considerably reduced, to about 2 tablespoons. Add balsamic vinegar and rosemary and simmer until mixture is reduced to about ¼ cup, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove rosemary and discard. Stir in granulated sugar and vanilla until sugar is dissolved; remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes or until thickened. Place plums on individual plates, spoon balsamic mixture evenly over each serving, then top with a dollop of mascarpone. Serve with biscotti.

Baba Ghanoush

By Barbara Beltrami

Actually, eggplant comes in many more shapes and sizes than the large purple global variety with which we are all familiar. A member of the nightshade family, its flowers, not the eggplant itself, can be female or male. So the preference for one or the other is based on myth. What you should concentrate on when choosing an eggplant is the skin, the weight and the hardness or softness of it. A fresh, ripe eggplant has glossy, taut skin, feels somewhat heavy and can be depressed with the thumb with just a little resistance and then return to its form.

While most people think of eggplant as one of the basic ingredients in the popular Italian American dish, eggplant parmigiana, it is, in fact, a staple of many diets, particularly in the Near and Far East. From the Syrian baba ghanoush to the Indian bhurtha to the Thai pud makua yow, eggplant crosses most ethnic boundaries to remind us that we’re not very much different from one another. I don’t often feature Asian recipes in this column simply because I have little experience with them. However, research among some acquaintances for whom the following recipes are traditional has expanded my repertoire.

Bhurtha

Bhurtha

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium eggplant

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 large tomato, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Preheat broiler. Rub eggplant skin with oil. Place under broiler and turn frequently until skin is charred and inside pulp is soft and mushy. Cut eggplant in half, scoop out flesh, cut into cubes and set aside. In a medium-large skillet, heat the oil, then add the onion, ginger, tomato, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until onion turns opaque. Add eggplant and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture is evaporated. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with naan (oven-baked flatbread), jasmine rice and peas.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large eggplants

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons tahini

One large clove garlic, finely minced

Coarse salt, to taste

¹/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Wash eggplants and grill whole on gas grill over medium-low heat. Turn frequently until eggplant is cooked on all sides, skin is charred and pulp is soft. Remove from heat, place on a platter and let cool for one hour. Do not be alarmed if it collapses. Peel the eggplant, scrape any flesh that adheres to the skin and put that plus the remaining flesh into a bowl; immediately add lemon juice and mash it in with the eggplant. Add tahini, garlic and salt and mix well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill. Transfer mixture to a shallow bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread and black olives.

Pud Makua Yow

Pud Makua Yow

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and minced

2 to 3 medium eggplants (preferably the long Japanese ones), cut into one-inch cubes

1 cup water

2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1½ cups Thai sweet basil leaves, packed

DIRECTIONS: Pour oil into a wok or large skillet; add garlic and chiles. Over medium heat, cook, stirring constantly, until garlic releases its aroma. Add eggplant and one cup water; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until eggplant is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. If too much liquid remains, uncover and continue cooking until it is evaporated. Add soy and fish sauces and stir; then add basil and stir again. Serve immediately with rice, tofu or chicken.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

By Barbara Beltrami

I remember that when I was a kid, anybody who brought anything other than a bologna or PBJ sandwich in her lunch box was taunted and humiliated. Generally an apple or orange could pass muster, but heaven help the kid whose mom put carrot and celery sticks or dried apricots in her lunch box.

Now that the kids are back at school, the challenge of what to pack in their lunch boxes renews itself. I would love to think that nowadays no child gets ridiculed for what’s in his lunch box (or anything else for that matter).

With child obesity recently at an all-time high and hovering around 17 percent, it’s no longer advisable to slap processed meat and cheese between two slices of spongy white bread and slather them with mayonnaise. Likewise, cookies and chips, candy and cake may be what a kid prefers, but many of those goodies have little or no nutritional value, and the sugar in them serves only to wind the kids up and fill their tummies with empty calories.

With media attention on healthful eating habits and revised menus even in school cafeterias, it is becoming incumbent upon parents to observe and encourage those habits by providing nutritious alternatives to convenience and junk foods.

Here are some simple suggestions for yummy and healthful alternatives whose prototypes I’d like to hope will become what the “cool” kids bring in their lunch boxes, but they should be merely models to inspire your own concoctions.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

Turkey Surprise Wrap

YIELD: Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap

¼ cup guacamole

2 thin slices low sodium deli turkey

¼ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and stems removed

4 large taco chips, crushed

DIRECTIONS: Lay the tortilla wrap on a cutting board; spread with guacamole to one inch from edge of wrap. Lay turkey slices evenly over guacamole; sprinkle with carrots, spinach and crushed chips. Starting at one end or side of the wrap, roll it and tuck opposite sides in as you roll. With a sharp knife, slice the rolled wrap into 2, 3 or 4 pieces. The surprise? The chips that give lots of crunch. Pack with a crisp apple or seasonal plums, juice or milk and trail mix.

No Nuts Granola Bars

No Nuts Granola Bars

YIELD: Makes 4 to 8 servings depending on size of squares

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1½ cups raw sunflower seeds

½ cup wheat germ

½ cup honey

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup dried fruit, diced or minced

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch by 9-inch glass baking dish. On a small baking sheet, spread oats, sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from oven, lower heat to 300 F and pour baked dry mixture into liquid mixture. Combine thoroughly; stir dried fruit into mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish, spread evenly, then press down to pack tightly. Bake 25 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. Cut into squares. Serve with yogurt, juice, milk or fresh fruit.

Apple Chips and Dip

Apple Chips and Dip

YIELD: Makes 2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons white sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 medium-large apples, cored and very thinly sliced

One 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt

½ cup applesauce

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 225 F. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Arrange apple slices on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with half the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake, turning halfway through and sprinkling with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture, until edges curl and apple slices are dried, about 45 minutes to one hour. With spatula, remove slices from baking sheet and place on rack to cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt and applesauce. If any of dip is left over, it can be served on its own or used with other ingredients to make a smoothie. Serve with graham crackers, toast, granola bars, trail mix or anything else that goes into the lunch box.

Bread and Butter Pickles

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re not picky about your pickles, you should be because there’s no comparison between homemade and commercially prepared ones. Although you need an uninterrupted couple of hours and a few special pieces of equipment to “put up” a batch of pickles, once you’ve made the investment of time and supplies, you’ll be hooked and do it every year.

Two great moments of culinary satisfaction happen first when you hear the sound of the jar lids popping to release the air and vacuum seal the jar and later when you stand back and regard the row of pickle jars sitting like so many green soldiers on your pantry shelf.

Here is a list of canning supplies available in most local hardware and agricultural supply stores. You most likely already have many of these things in your kitchen.

Large enamel pot with canning rack

Large pot for boiling pickles

Glass jars with ring and dome lids

Large spoons and ladles

Sharp knives and vegetable peelers

Large colander

Kitchen scale

Measuring cups and spoons

Wide-mouth funnel to fit circumference of jar tops

Cheesecloth

Timer

Tongs

Pot holders

A few precautionary tips: Jars should be unchipped; veggies should be fresh and unspoiled; after processing, jars should be closed tight with a small dent in the middle of the lid; jars, domes and rings and implements must first be sterilized in a hot water bath or the dishwasher for at least 15 minutes. Now that you’ve got it all together, you’re ready to start making your own pickles!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

YIELD: Makes 7 to 8 pints

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds medium or Kirby cucumbers, washed and cut into ¹/₄-inch slices

1 pound small white pearl onions (frozen are OK)

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thin

½ cup kosher salt

3 quarts ice water

5 cups sugar

5 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon peppercorns

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, onions and peppers. Add salt, mix well and add three quarts ice water. Cover and let sit for 4 hours. Fill canning pot to indicated water level, cover and bring to a boil. In a large pot, mix remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; let boil 3 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the vegetables, rinse thoroughly and drain again. Add veggies to liquid and bring to a boil again. Remove from heat and pack into hot one-pint sterile jars; leave ¼ inch headroom.

With a damp paper towel, wipe the top and side rims of the jars; with tongs place domes on jars, then screw on rings just to the point of stopping; do not tighten. Using tongs or pot holders, carefully set jars on raised rack of canning pot, then gently, being careful not to topple any jars, lower the rack into the hot water, cover and return to boil. Process (boil) for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat.

With tongs or pot holders, raise rack and remove jars onto heat-proof surface. As you lift them out, you will probably hear them popping, which means they’re sealed. With your finger, poke any that do not have a slight indentation in the middle. If they still have a slightly raised surface in the middle after several attempts to depress them, put them aside, and when cooled, refrigerate and use within a week or two.

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

 

YIELD: Makes about 7 pints

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup sugar

½ cup kosher salt

1 quart white vinegar

1 quart water

3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices

2 cloves garlic

35 medium Kirby cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise or cut into spears

7 to 8 heads fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: Have canning pot and rack ready with boiling water reduced to simmer. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in medium pot. Tie pickling spices and garlic cloves in a cheesecloth bag and add to mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes; remove and discard bag. Meanwhile, pack cucumbers into hot sterilized pint jars and add one head dill to each jar; leave half an inch headroom. Bring vinegar mixture to a vigorous boil and ladle hot brine over cucumbers; leave ¼ inch headroom. Proceed as in italicized part of previous recipe.

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