Cooking

Green beans are in season on Long Island from July to September. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Green beans, string beans, snap beans —  What’s in a name? They’re all pretty much the same thing; a favorite, as veggies go, among many people, and unlike some other veggies, seldom considered “yucky.” At this time of year, they abound in bushel baskets at farm stands, green thatches of long and slender and crisp vegetable freshness. Trimmed and lightly steamed just to the point of tenderness where they still retain their greenness, they make a fine side dish on their own dressed with lemon or butter, or as a tasty component of salads, soups, casseroles, pasta or potato dishes.

So here’s what you need to do. Go to a farm stand, carefully pick out a bunch of skinny unblemished beans, take them home, sit yourself down near a fan or an AC vent, put a bowl in your lap, and with a little knife or your thumbnail, remove the brownish stem ends of the beans, then cut or snap them to desired size (I like to leave them whole). Here are some recipes to get you started.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

This is almost but not quite a salade nicoise.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

1 pound skinny green beans, stem end removed

2 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large handfuls baby arugula

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

2 ripe garden fresh tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender; remove from water, let sit until cool enough to handle , then cut into thin slices or dice. Simultaneously, in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer, salt the green beans to taste and cook over boiling water until tender but still bright green. Immediately remove and place in bowl of ice water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. When ready to serve, arrange arugula on a serving plate, toss the potatoes and beans with the vinaigrette and pile on top of the arugula. Arrange sliced or diced eggs and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled dry white wine, crusty French bread and unsalted butter.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

This combination of green beans and onions is a far cry from that old recipe made with canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large Vidalia or red onions, peeled and cut into rings

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 pounds fresh skinny green beans, trimmed and steamed or boiled till tender but still bright green

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the butter and oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add onions, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook onions, stirring frequently, until light golden; add thyme, brown sugar and vinegar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a rich medium dark brown. Place string beans in a serving bowl and top with caramelized onions. Serve warm or hot with poultry or meat.

Green Beans with Bacon and Balsamic

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cooked till tender but bright green

½ pound bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large serving bowl toss the beans and bacon. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, bacon fat, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Half an hour before serving, toss the string bean mixture with oil mixture; tossing a few more times, let sit for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature or warm with pork or poultry or as a main dish.

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Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

With her passionate reminiscences and mouth-watering descriptions of comfort foods from way back in our childhoods — things that were part of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ regular repertoires; the kinds of things we neither cook anymore nor see on menus — my friend has motivated me to comb through old recipe files and cookbooks to try to duplicate them. I have done so with the caveat that they will never be as good as the ones we remember. How could they be? However, as my new muse in this as in so many things, I am dedicating this column to her.

Tomato Aspic 

Ask any Southern lady and she will tell you that this dish is a standard at luncheons and funerals.

YIELD: Makes 8 to10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¼ cup boiling water

4 cups tomato juice

1 tablespoon chopped onion

½ green bell pepper chopped

1 celery rib

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon celery seeds

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

Fresh bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin; let sit 5 minutes. Whisk boiling water into gelatin until it is dissolved. In a large saucepan, combine the tomato juice, onion, pepper, celery, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and celery seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes; pour through wire mesh strainer into medium bowl; discard veggies or save for another use. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice. Spray a 10-cup ring mold with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into mold; chill 6 hours or until set. Unmold onto plate lined with lettuce leaves; garnish with parsley. Serve with shrimp salad and deviled eggs.

Old-Fashioned Crabmeat Casserole

Casseroles were very popular decades ago. The combination of crabmeat, butter and breadcrumbs makes this a rich but oh-so-delicious seafood dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 large egg

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 stick unsalted butter

1½ cups unflavored breadcrumbs

1 cup half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked crabmeat (picked over to remove any bits of shell)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or grease a two-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl whisk together egg, parsley and mustard. In a medium saucepan melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat; add one cup breadcrumbs and half-and-half; cook stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add egg mixture and salt and pepper and stir just enough to incorporate but not cook egg. Fold in crabmeat; transfer to prepared casserole; sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs; dot with remaining butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

Julia’s Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Julia was the daughter of a slave. That’s how many generations the recipe

for this childhood favorite has been around.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 12 to 15 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole grain oats (old-fashioned not instant oatmeal)

¼ stick unsalted butter plus butter for greasing baking sheets

¾ cup medium brown sugar

1 egg

Pinch or 2 all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon vanilla or to taste.

DIRECTIONS:

Generously grease two baking sheets and set aside. Preheat oven to 275 F. Spread oatmeal on another baking sheet and toast it for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool. Raise oven temperature to 350 F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over moderately low heat; add sugar and mix well. Remove pan from cook top, stir in egg and oatmeal; beat until blended, then thoroughly blend in flour and vanilla. Drop batter, about one tablespoon at a time, about two inches apart as cookies will spread, onto greased baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are firm and edges are slightly brown. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheets, then with sharp spatula, carefully remove to wire racks, Serve with ice cold milk.

Honeydew melons are a versatile treat and can be used as an ingredient in salads, side dishes, entrees and even drinks. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

I have found that honeydew melons can often be a rather dicey proposition. I frequently think I’ve picked out a promising one only to get it home where it languishes and never ripens. Or it does ripen but the result is a flavorless disappointment. 

Well, that’s no way to start a food column, is it? Let me start over on a more positive note.  

When a honeydew is good, it’s very good. When it’s perfectly ripened, it is an explosion of mouth-watering fruit worthy of its name. On its own, it sings of summer. With other ingredients it’s a perfect foil for salty or slightly bitter flavors. And it’s such a pretty color; just looking at it is enough to cool one off. 

So, if you’re good at picking out melons, or if you’re lucky enough to find a winner, try some of these honeydew recipes.

Honeydew Salad with Honey-Citrus Dressing

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 avocado, diced

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

½ ripe honeydew melon, diced

2 cups baby arugula

4 red radishes, scrubbed and sliced thin

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1½ tablespoons lime or orange juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 slices prosciutto, torn into small pieces

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl toss the avocado with the freshly squeezed lemon juice to thoroughly coat.  Add honeydew, arugula and radishes; toss again and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, honey, lime or orange juice, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, toss with melon mixture; sprinkle prosciutto on top and serve immediately with prosecco and breadsticks.

Honeydew Sorbet with Candied Ginger

Honeydew Sorbet

YIELD: Makes about 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

4 cups diced ripe honeydew melon

¼ to 1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Measure out ¾ cup; reserve and refrigerate any extra for later use. Puree melon in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Measure out 2½ cups. Cover and refrigerate any extra puree for another use. Combine sugar syrup, melon puree and chopped ginger in bowl of ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to freezer container, cover and freeze for at least two hours. Serve with ginger snaps.

Shrimp and Lobster Salad in Honeydew Bowls

YIELD: Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup chopped cooked shrimp

1 cup chopped cooked lobster meat

¼ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced green bell pepper

 1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or tarragon

¼ teaspoon celery seed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small ripe honeydew, halved and seeded

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, lobster, celery, green pepper, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill or tarragon, celery seed, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly and scoop into hollowed out honeydew halves. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for one hour before serving.

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Midsummer. Not exactly a dream and more of a nightmare if the temperature hits the 90s and the humidity is high too. No time to turn on an oven or sweat over a grill. Better to cook in the early morning, then refrigerate for later. But what? 

A steak grilled, cooled and refrigerated in a savory marinade, then sliced works well; so do poached chicken breasts immersed in a tonnato (tuna, mayonnaise and capers) sauce. Potato salad is always welcome whether dressed with the traditional mayonnaise, celery and hard-boiled egg or an herbed vinaigrette. 

Salad? Sliced tomatoes with onions or scallions, sprinkled with fresh corn kernels or the ever popular mozzarella and basil; garden lettuce and cucumbers and peppers; watermelon, tomato, cucumber and feta. Here are a few dreamy recipes to help you keep your midsummer nights cool.

Poached Chicken Breasts With Tonnato Sauce

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 medium boneless chicken breast halves

3 cups cold water

1 cup cold dry white wine

1 medium sprig fresh thyme

1 medium sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 handful fresh chives

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

One 6-ounce can Italian dark tuna packed in olive oil

2 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken breasts in a large skillet; cover with cold water and wine; add herbs and salt. Bring water to boil over medium heat. When a rolling boil is achieved, turn breasts over with tongs, remove from heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast reads 150 F. Remove breasts to cutting board; let sit 5 minutes, then slice. Arrange on a platter, cover and refrigerate. 

Put mayonnaise, oil, tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, capers and black pepper in jar of blender and puree until smooth; cover and refrigerate one hour. Pour generously over sliced chicken. Serve cold on a bed of lettuce with potato or rice salad and sliced fresh tomatoes.

Herbed Potato Salad

Herbed Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh chervil

2 scallions, very thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place in large bowl to cool to room temperature. In small bowl whisk together herbs, scallions, oil, wine, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat thoroughly; cover and refrigerate tossing again after 30 minutes, one hour. Serve with poultry, fish or meat. 

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups diced cucumber

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups diced watermelon

1 cup crumbled feta

Sliced red onion (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, toss together cucumber and tomatoes. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, dill, salt and pepper; pour over cucumber and tomatoes. Tossing frequently, let sit one hour. When ready to serve, add watermelon, feta and red onion (if used); toss again. Serve with poultry, meat or fish.

Basil Ice Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

There is something so satisfying about traipsing among the plants in one’s own herb garden and pinching the leaves to enjoy their fragrant and sometimes acrid pungency. And no herb offers a redolent summer perfume like basil. Nothing beats plucking one’s own basil for extravagant use in summer dishes. 

Basilico in Italian, basilic in French and derived from the Greek word for “kingly,” this marvelous herb was considered a sacred plant long ago. In fact, legend has it that St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, received a divine revelation that the true cross would be found where the air was sweetly perfumed. And guess where she found it? Under a basil patch! 

Although sweet basil with small delicate foliage is preferable to the more familiar large, broad-leafed variety, even the latter plant produces an intensity of flavor that few methods of preparation can diminish and most can enhance. 

Thinking inside the basil box, it’s thick red slices of just-picked garden tomatoes, still warm from the sun, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and slivers of fresh basil leaves; it’s linguine gently tossed with a basil pesto or breast of chicken stuffed with basil and goat cheese. Thinking outside the box, it’s basil as a flavoring for mayonnaise or a refreshing summer cooler or ice cream. Yes, I know. I’ve written about basil in past columns. But it’s that kind of herb; it’s so good that it bears repeating every now and then. 

Basil Ice Cream

Basil Ice Cream

YIELD: Makes four ¾-cup servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whole milk or half-and-half

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

½ cup very cold heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium heavy saucepan, bring milk, basil, ¼ cup sugar and salt to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Transfer to blender and process until basil is finely ground, about one minute. In medium bowl, beat egg yolks with remaining ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale, about one minute. Add milk mixture in a thin stream, beating constantly with an electric mixer, until well combined. 

Pour entire mixture into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and reads 175 F on thermometer. (Do not let boil!) Immediately remove from heat and pour through fine sieve into metal bowl; set bowl over larger bowl of ice water and stir until cold, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in cream and transfer to ice cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to airtight container and freeze at least two hours before serving with biscotti.

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes about ¾ cup

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 smashed garlic clove

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In the jar of an electric blender, combine egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard powder; pulse a few times; add herbs. With machine running, drizzle in oil until mixture emulsifies. Transfer to container, cover and chill. Serve with fish or chicken.

Basil-Citrus Cooler

Basil-Citrus Cooler

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lightly packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups orange juice

1 cup sparkling water

4 sprigs fresh basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine the basil and sugar. With the back of a wooden spoon crush the basil leaves until thoroughly bruised; stir in orange juice. Strain through cheesecloth or wire mesh strainer into ice cube-filled glasses. Add sparkling water; stir and garnish with basil sprigs. Serve immediately with tea cake or cookies.

Chicken Liver Crostini. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

A recent trip to my beloved Tuscan countryside compels me to share with you some thoughts about its rustic fare that emanates mostly from peasant farm people who for hundreds of years have eked every last bit from those rolling patch-worked hills and the olives trees, grapevines, vegetables and animals they raised on them. Hence, that area is well known and loved for its simple fare of olive oil, wine, tomatoes, beans and cured meats. Not so much actual recipes as frugal combinations of basic staples, Tuscan food is as earthy as its cypress-dotted green and ocher landscape crowned by ancient hilltop towns and tile-roofed stone farmhouses.

Chicken Liver Crostini

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup chopped fresh mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

1 pound chicken livers

¼ cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chopped anchovies

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

12 to 16 slices toasted rustic Italian bread

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are transparent and livers are brown outside and pale pink inside, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine, capers, anchovies, parsley and bay leaf. Continue to cook until liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove and discard bay leaf; add salt and pepper. With a fork or back or a cooking spoon, mash livers or, if desired, place in bowl of food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle bread with extra virgin olive oil and spread chicken liver mixture on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled young wine.

 Bread and Tomato Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

5 pounds ripe tomatoes, diced with their juice

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

¼–½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Coarse salt to taste

½ pound stale rustic bread cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley 

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until opaque, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, garlic, crushed red pepper and salt. Cook, partially covered, over medium heat until mixture is somewhat thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in bread, basil and parsley; let sit until bread is softened, then mash it into mixture. Stir in extra virgin olive oil and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a crisp dry white wine.

Tuscan Bean Salad 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 celery rib, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

2/3 cup finely chopped red onion

½ cup chopped oil-cured black olives

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place beans, celery, onion, olives, parsley and rosemary in a large bowl; toss to combine. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to bean mixture; toss to thoroughly coat. Let sit one hour, toss again and serve at room temperature with arugula and cherry tomato salad, crusty bread and slices of prosciutto and salami.

Farfalle Salad with Salmon, Asparagus and Peas. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

When it’s time for a backyard barbecue or pool party, neighborhood get-together or family celebration, it seems that in the past few years the traditional salads have given up some of their popularity to pasta salads, one of my favorite things to put together. I cook up a nice big pot of some weird-shaped pasta and then put my imagination to work. The last three times I did that I came up with some real doozies that turned out to be big hits. 

The first was farfalle with poached salmon, peas, asparagus, dill, yogurt and mayonnaise. Another one was penne with chick peas, black olives, cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant and goat cheese, and the most recent one was basically an antipasto salad: fusilli tossed with julienned Genoa salami,, provolone, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies in a simple olive oil, wine vinegar and herb dressing. Try one or all of them or boil up a pot of pasta and see what happens next.

Farfalle Salad with Salmon, Asparagus and Peas

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained

Freshly squeezed juice of one small lemon

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

1 pound farfalle pasta, cooked and at room temperature 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 package frozen peas, thawed

1 pound fresh asparagus, cooked and sliced into 1-inch pieces

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 pound fresh salmon, poached and torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk thoroughly combine yogurt, mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss the pasta with the olive oil to coat thoroughly. Add peas, asparagus, scallions  and yogurt mixture; toss again; scatter salmon and dill over top of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled with cucumber salad.

Penne Salad Provencale

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound cooked penne, at room temperature

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup white or red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, bruised

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or 1 tsp. dried

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

Nonstick cooking spray

1 medium eggplant, washed and diced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

One 14-ounce can chick peas, rinsed/drained

3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced

1 cup oil-packed black olives, pitted and sliced

6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In small bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic, marjoram and thyme. Let sit at room temperature one hour; remove and discard garlic. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; spread eggplant evenly and bake, until soft, about 10 minutes. In medium bowl, toss eggplant with ¼ cup olive oil. In large bowl, combine pasta, eggplant, chick peas, tomatoes, olives, goat cheese and oil and vinegar mixture; season with salt and pepper; toss thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate up to one hour; let sit 30 minutes before serving with a green salad, and meat, fowl or fish.

Fusilli Salad with Antipasto

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, bruised

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound cooked fusilli pasta

½ cup pepperoncini, drained

½ pound sliced Genoa salami, julienned

¼ pound sliced provolone cheese, julienned

½ pound mozzarella cheese, diced

¾ cup roasted red peppers, diced

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced or chopped

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced

10 anchovy fillets, minced

1 cup thinly sliced celery

DIRECTIONS:

In small bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper; whisk vigorously; let sit at room temperature one hour; remove garlic and discard; whisk mixture again. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients; toss, add oil and vinegar mixture, toss again. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve, let sit 30 minutes at room temperature. Serve with wine, beer, or soft drinks.

Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Cheesecake has to be one of the most popular desserts around. I mean, who doesn’t like cheesecake? I have two versions that have been in my recipe file for as long as I can remember. 

One, a rich and creamy decadent version is called Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake. I have no cousin named Edith, nor do I know whose cousin she is; I just know that ages ago I found it in one of those ancient spiral bound ladies auxiliary fundraiser cookbooks languishing at a yard sale. My eye was drawn to it because of all the recipes there, it was the only one on a stained and dog-eared page, always a sign of a cook’s or baker’s favorite. 

Another recipe for Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, much lighter but equally delicious, was found in my mother-in-law’s scrawl tucked into an old address book many years ago and has undergone a slight updating for modern kitchen appliances. They both are real company pleasers and travel well when it’s my turn to bring dessert. 

Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze

Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

11/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup melted unsalted butter

¼ cup sugar

Two 8-ounce bricks cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup light cream

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup cherry juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan. In medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and quarter-cup of sugar; press into bottom and partially up sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes; let cool slightly. While it is cooling, in large mixer bowl beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy, about one minute; add sugar and flour. Mix well. Blend in eggs, one at a time; then stir in cream and vanilla. Pour mixture into crumb-lined pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until set in middle. Turn off oven; let sit in oven another 30 minutes. Cool before removing rim. 

Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine cherry juice, two tablespoons sugar and cornstarch. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly, place cake on serving plate and pour cherry glaze on top. Serve with coffee, tea or dessert wine.

Ricotta Cheesecake

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest

1½ cups sugar

½ cup flour

3 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, place pan on a 12-inch square of aluminum foil and mold it tightly around bottom and sides of pan. In a large bowl beat eggs, vanilla and zest just until blended. Beat in sugar and flour. In a food processor or blender, puree ricotta until very smooth; then add to the egg mixture and stir well. Pour batter into prepared pan and place pan in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on middle rack of oven. 

Bake for 1½ hours or until a knife inserted 2 inches from center of cake comes out clean. Turn off oven. Prop oven door open with a wooden spoon and let cake cool there for half an hour. Remove from oven; remove foil and cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve chilled or at room temperature with amaretto, hazelnut liqueur or espresso.

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

We are so lucky. It’s summer and we live on Long Island and if there’s one thing we’re known for it’s our miles and miles of beaches skirting the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound and several bays in between. To spend a day “by the sea, by the beautiful sea,” to play in the sand and surf, and then to dine on its bounty is the essence of summer for us.

When we’re exhilarated and exhausted by the salt air and sunshine, nothing makes a more perfect ending to the day than tucking into a seafood dinner. Of course, it must start off with freshly shucked, ice cold clams and oysters, and if a good sea breeze is kicking up, a bowl of chunky chowder keeps everyone happy until the steamers and mussels have relinquished themselves to their garlic and wine bath.

But all these briny appetizers are just a tease leading to the main attraction: lobsters grilled to charred succulence accompanied by Long Island spuds, a bowlful of husk-wrapped corn, another bowl of tender young greens from the garden — all chased down, of course, with a Long Island chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

Then finally, there is the moment when, content with the conviviality of the gathering, sated with the taste of the sea, we sit back, contemplate the sunset, sip a mug of good strong coffee and find room somehow, somewhere, for fresh Long Island strawberry cobbler crowned by dollops of vanilla ice cream.

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 dozen soft-shell clams, scrubbed

4 dozen mussels, scrubbed

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bay leaf

6 bruised garlic cloves

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup dry white wine

½ pound unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse clams and mussels under cold running water; place in large pot with two cups of water, oil, herbs and wine; steam until shells open, 6 to 8 minutes. Discard any whose shells don’t open.  With slotted spoon remove clams and mussels from broth and divide evenly among individual soup bowls; discard herbs. Strain broth through a sieve or cheesecloth and pour into individual bowls or cups. Serve clams, mussels and broth immediately with melted butter for dipping.

Clam and Garden Vegetable Chowder

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts freshly shucked clams in liquor

½ pound diced bacon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 large celery rib, cleaned and diced

1 fennel bulb, cleaned and diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced

One 28-ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes with their juice

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Drain and reserve liquor from clams; rinse clams in cold water, chop and set aside. Strain liquor through fine sieve or cheesecloth; set aside.

In a large pot, cook bacon pieces until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels; add olive oil to bacon fat, then onions, pepper, zucchini, celery, fennel, carrots and potatoes; stir to coat thoroughly and cook, stirring frequently until fat and oil are absorbed and vegetables have started to change color and consistency, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes with their juice and enough water to cover veggies; cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about one hour. Add bacon, clams and their liquid, herbs and seasoning; cook until just heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

By Barbara Beltrami

For Mother’s Day I wrote about moms loving salads. And it’s true. For Father’s Day I’m writing about dads loving hefty stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts because, chauvinistic as it sounds, it’s also true. Hopefully you don’t get picked up by the cholesterol police for the Father’s Day breakfast I’m about to share with you, but I know Dad will love the Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce and Garlic Bread, the Drunken Melon Balls and the ‘Cappuccino’ Smoothie, so much that it will be worth it for one beautiful June morning.

Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce

Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 1½–2 pound flank steak

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

One crusty baguette

One stick unsalted butter, softened

3 large garlic cloves, minced

One 14-ounce can tomato sauce

¼ cup prepared horseradish, well-drained

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

4 ounces unsalted butter

6 extra large eggs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to high setting. Brush steak on both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper. Slice baguette in half lengthwise; spread each half with butter, then sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Cut into 6 pieces with tops and bottoms together, reassemble and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Grill steak 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, for medium rare, more or less for other desired doneness. Remove from grill, let sit for 10 minutes, then slice and set aside to keep warm.

Place garlic bread on upper rack or off to side of main grill rack; turn once or twice; remove when heated through and crust feels slightly hard to the touch, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, over medium heat, mix and cook the tomato sauce, horseradish, oil, and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and thick. On iron griddle, melt the 4 ounces of butter, then fry eggs to desired doneness. On a large platter assemble sliced steak, eggs and garlic bread. Pour Bloody Mary Sauce over steak. Serve immediately with a “Cappuccino” Smoothie and Drunken Melon Balls.

Drunken Melon Balls

Drunken Melon Balls

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 baby watermelon

½ cantaloupe, seeds removed

¼ honeydew, seeds removed

½ cup vodka or white rum

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

1 lime, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

With a melon baller, scoop balls from melons and place them in a large bowl. Toss with vodka or rum, cover and refrigerate at least one hour, tossing them several times in between. Transfer to chilled glasses, garnish with mint and a lime slice and serve with “Cappuccino” Smoothie, Steak and Eggs or Danish pastries.

‘Cappuccino’ Smoothie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups coffee yogurt

1 cup whole or 2% milk

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

½ cup sugar or to taste

1 cup ice cubes

¼ cup coffee liqueur

Ground cinnamon

Shaved chocolate

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients except cinnamon and shaved chocolate in jar of electric blender, pulse a few times, then process until thick and foamy. Sprinkle with cinnamon and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately with steak and eggs, Drunken Melon Balls, muffins or croissants.

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