Cooking

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

By Barbara Beltrami

It seems that these days there’s hardly a restaurant menu that doesn’t offer salmon in some form. And there is hardly a supermarket with a fish department or a fish monger that doesn’t display salmon front and center. It’s easy to see why. First of all, because of its nutritional value as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, potassium, B vitamins and selenium among others, it can hardly be ignored as a staple for a healthy diet.

Additionally it’s among the tastiest and most versatile of fish in that it lends itself easily to myriad flavors and preparations. I like it so much and cook it so often that it’s difficult for me to choose just three recipes to share with you. But here it goes. First is salmon cakes, a hearty salmon chowder and finally a roasted salmon with soy sauce, brown sugar and orange.

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup minced onion

1 tablespoon minced green pepper

1/3 cup minced celery

1 pound cooked fresh salmon, flaked

¾ cup unflavored bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: In a medium skillet, melt one tablespoon of the butter, then add the onion, green pepper and celery. Cook, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is transparent. Cool mixture slightly, then place in a medium bowl and add salmon. Stir in the bread crumbs, chives, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties and chill for one hour. Heat remaining butter in skillet; add salmon cakes and cook over medium heat, turning once, until both sides are golden and centers are heated through. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with tartar sauce, french fries and cole slaw.

Salmon Chowder

Salmon Chowder

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups milk

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup tomato juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked fresh salmon, skin and bones removed, coarsely flaked

3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: In a small saucepan heat milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter, then sauté the onions and celery until soft and opaque, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour. Add hot milk and, stirring constantly, continue cooking over medium-low heat until mixture is thickened. Stir in tomato juice, salt and pepper. Add salmon and heat but do not boil. Sprinkle with parsley and dill and serve immediately. Serve with crackers, preferably saltines.

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

Roasted Salmon with Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

One 1.5 pound piece fresh salmon, cut into 4 equal portions

3 tablespoon soy sauce

2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

One small garlic clove, bruised

2 teaspoons orange zest

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange salmon pieces on foil. In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, orange juice, oil, garlic, orange zest and pepper. Remove garlic clove and discard. Carefully drizzle the mixture onto the salmon. Place baking sheet in top half of oven and roast for about 12 minutes, more or less depending on how you like your salmon cooked. Serve with broccoli rabe, spinach, Swiss chard or bok choy and rice.

By Barbara Beltrami

Even in the days when we can access any produce from just about anywhere all year long, when asparagus show up in great quantities in the supermarket at lower prices, when the stalks are pencil thin and the tips tight, we know spring has arrived and we can abandon the brussels sprouts and winter squash that have sustained us through the fall and winter.

It is not uncommon for asparagus to make their seasonal debut at Easter or Passover dinner and then to show up on our tables in many forms and preparations throughout the spring. In addition to the usual steamed, roasted or grilled versions, delightful themselves, there are so many ways to take advantage of this tender green veggie. Ever think of making an asparagus bisque with crab meat? Asparagus pesto? An asparagus and haricot vert (thin French green bean) salad with tarragon vinaigrette? Read on.

Asparagus Bisque

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed, then cut into one-inch pieces

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 leek, white part only, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ribs celery, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 large potato, peeled and diced

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup cream or milk

½ pound fresh or frozen and defrosted lump crab meat, broken into bite-size pieces

Fresh chives, for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Steam asparagus until soft and just on the verge of turning yellowish green. Heat oil in a medium skillet; add onion, garlic, leek, celery and potato; sauté until onion, leek and celery are opaque, but not golden and potato is soft but not mushy. Add asparagus, salt and pepper and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool until just warm and puree entire mixture in food processor until smooth. Add milk or cream and pulse a few times. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with crab meat and chives. Serve topped with crackers or croutons.

Asparagus Pesto

Asparagus Pesto

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh asparagus

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup pignoli nuts

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Wash and peel asparagus; snap off bottoms of stems. Slice into 2-inch pieces. Steam until asparagus are tender but still a nice bright green, 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of stems. Place in food processor; add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve at room temperature with linguine, spaghetti or any delicate pasta, gnocchi, crudités or toasted baguette slices.

Asparagus, Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound asparagus, steamed until tender but still bright green

1 pound green beans, sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces and steamed until tender but still a bright green

12 cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges

½ cup minced Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 to 3 scallions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, bruised

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one medium fresh lemon

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

1 level tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl toss together the asparagus, green beans, tomatoes and parsley. In a small bowl vigorously whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the dressing. When ready to serve, toss veggies with dressing. Tastes best if not refrigerated. Serve with chicken or fish and crusty French bread.

Curried Deviled Eggs

By Barbara Beltrami

No need to take a hard-boiled attitude toward the surfeit of Easter eggs. I know, I know. How many hard-boiled eggs can a family eat, especially when there are alternatives like marshmallow peeps, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies? Actually, quite a few if they are recycled into other dishes. For eggs-ample, egg salad with green onions and dill, curried deviled eggs and sliced egg canapes, all of which, by the way, make eggs-cellent hors d’oeuvres before Easter dinner.

Egg Salad with Green Onions

Egg Salad with Green Onions

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

8 hard-boiled eggs

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Peel eggs and chop into small pieces. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, green onions, dill and salt and pepper. Vigorously whip or stir. Cover and refrigerate until using. Serve with bread, crackers, chips, green salad or sliced tomatoes.

Curried Deviled Eggs

Curried Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 hard-boiled eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley or 1 heaping teaspoon dried

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Peel eggs and slice in half end to end. Gently scoop out yolks and place in small bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, curry powder, cayenne, parsley and salt and pepper. Vigorously whip together until mixture has a smooth creamy consistency. Scoop or pipe into hollowed egg whites. Cover and refrigerate until using. Serve with pickles, olives or celery and carrot sticks.

Sliced Egg Canapes with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Prosciutto or Anchovies

YIELD: Makes 16 canapes

INGREDIENTS:

16 slices of French bread (baguette), toasted

1 large clove peeled garlic

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 to 5 slices prosciutto or 16 anchovy filets

3 to 4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarter-inch slices

16 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Rub one side of toasted bread slices with garlic. Drizzle one teaspoon olive oil on each slice. Cut or tear each slice of prosciutto into approximate size of bread slice. If using anchovies, lay one anchovy filet on each bread slice and with a fork, mash into bread. Lay egg slices over prosciutto or anchovies to cover, then sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes on top. Do not refrigerate assembled canapes as bread will lose its crispness. Serve with wine, cocktails or soft drinks.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will present its 8th annual Health & Wellness Fest on April 22 at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, located at 350 Old Post Road in Port Jefferson, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Port Jefferson Chamber has brought together a large number of health and wellness professionals to offer our visitors the latest information for all stages of life including pre-birth, childhood, adulthood and elder years. In addition to exhibitors from traditional medical fields, there will also be specialists in the areas of physical fitness, nutrition and holistic medicine. The exhibitors will focus on prevention, early detection and treatment measures and techniques.

We are delighted and honored to, once again, have our three renowned medical establishments — Stony Brook Medicine, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital and St. Charles Hospital at our fest this year. They offer a wealth of professional health and wellness expertise and are providing free health screenings, special demonstrations, free giveaways and much more healthy living information.

It’s all about food and fun!

Our tag line this year is still Eat Well, Live Well, emphasizing the fact that we are what we eat! Did you say you liked eating healthy food? Well you will not be disappointed at this year’s Health & Wellness Fest. St. Charles Hospital is sponsoring their “food court” featuring all healthy food. A variety of breakfast and lunch items will be offered including overnight oatmeal, strawberry bars, smoothies, lentil soup and cauliflower pizza with toppings and fresh veggies with dip and hummus. Participants will be able to choose their selection with St. Charles’ Executive Chef Bill Dougherty and their dietitians, nutritionists and staff to assist with questions about healthy eating and diet.

At 9:30 after you have had a filling breakfast you can burn those calories off with a mini-yoga class with Diane MacDonald, a life transition coach, yoga teacher and co-founder of It Takes of Village Wellness here in Port Jefferson. For those of you who like to watch their fun, at 11:30 a dynamitic dance couple from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Port Jefferson Station will demonstrate the beauty of ballroom dancing, showing off the many different styles of couple dancing! To complete your visit to this year’s fest have some fun checking your balance, learn more about exercising or stop by for some craft activities at our Port Jefferson Library table. There is something for everyone!

Healing, service and animals

This year at the 8th annual Health & Wellness Fest, attendees will learn the value of the healing powers of animals. We are very pleased to highlight three vendors that specialize in service animals. First, and very exciting, we will have miniature therapy donkeys! These four-legged adorable donkeys have been rescued from circumstances that no one would want to entertain. Their “zen-like” grounded qualities aid in the healing of seniors, children and people with disabilities. Enjoy petting one with their Converse sneakers and discovery these gentle, kind beasts.

Dogs play so many roles in our society today and two of our vendors feature the relationship dogs can have with our service men and women. Patriotic Services Dog Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on serving our veterans by raising the awareness for their needs and providing service dogs to those who may benefit from long-term mental and physical assistance. So come and meet Indee, short for Independence, a fox red Labrador and owner Glen Moody. Our other animal vendor is Paws for War, who also train and place rescued dogs to serve and provide independence to our United States military veterans who suffer the emotional effect of the war. We appreciate all that these animals do for us and let’s give thanks to them and the service of our military men and women!

Family Fun Run kicks off fest

The Royal Educational Foundation invites you to participate in the Fourth Annual Power of One Family Fun Run in Port Jefferson on Saturday, April 22. This event is designed to encourage physical activity and is intended to celebrate the positive influence we can have on one another and our community. Port Jefferson High School social studies teacher Jesse Rosen will be honored at the event with the Power of One Award for his significant positive impact on the village and school community. Whether you wish to walk or run, the 2-mile course is open to all ages.

The run begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Village Center, 101 E. Broadway, continues through the streets of Port Jefferson Village, and ends at the High School Bowl and the Chamber of Commerce’s Health & Wellness Fest. For more information or to register, visit www.pjref.com (click on the Power of One Fun Run tab). You may also register the day of the run between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at the Village Center. Advanced registrants need to check in no later than 8:15 a.m. The proceeds of this fundraiser will be used to enhance the quality of education in the Port Jefferson School District.

Matzo Brei

By Barbara Beltrami

Passover is the joyous Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the children of Israel in ancient Egypt from slavery to freedom. As they fled, they had no time for their bread to rise, and that is how we came to eat matzos (unleavened bread) for Passover.

The matzo has come to present itself in many forms, although I think everyone’s favorite is still that pale square megacracker that is a wonderful support system for everything from butter to horseradish to jam to salsa and everything in between.

Since Biblical times, it has also managed to evolve into matzo meal, which then has become the foundation for all sorts of delicious recipes. That being said, my all-time favorites are the traditional ones for matzo balls, matzo brei, and matzo meal pancakes.

Matzo Balls

Matzo Balls

The butt of many a joke, especially at the expense of mothers-in-law, these little round gems turn chicken soup into a treasure.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

¹∕₃ cup cold seltzer or club soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup matzo meal

DIRECTIONS: Beat the eggs, oil, soda and salt together. Stir in the matzo meal, adding just enough to make a stiff batter. Chill for at least one hour. Form into 18 balls and cook for 30 minutes in boiling salted water or broth. Serve with chicken soup.

Matzo Brei

Matzo Brei

Not as familiar perhaps as matzo balls, matzo brei is broken up matzos soaked for a short time in warm water or milk, then mixed with beaten eggs and fried. It makes a great breakfast or side dish, and with the addition of whatever your imagination dictates, a delicious main dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs, beaten

1 scant teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon grated onion (optional)

4 matzos

Butter or oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Combine the eggs, salt and onion (if using). Break matzos into large bite-size pieces and soak in water or milk until softened but not mushy. Add to egg mixture and stir well. In a medium skillet heat the butter or oil; then add matzo mixture to it. Fry until lightly browned and heated through. Serve with maple syrup, apple sauce or sugar. If using onions, serve with sour cream or soft cheese.

Matzo Meal Pancakes

Matzo Meal Pancakes

Because of their crispy exterior and light interior, these pancakes are a nice change from regular ones.

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 egg yolks

½ teaspoon salt ½ cup cold water

¾ cup matzo meal

3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Beat together the egg yolks, salt and water. Stir in the matzo meal; then gently fold in the egg whites. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil, then drop the batter, one heaping tablespoon at a time, into it. Turn once to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve with sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, fruit or jam.

Each of the six items arranged on the traditional Passover Seder plate has a special significance to the retelling of the story of Passover.

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

Rabbi Aaron Benson

Weeks of preparation will pay off in the homes of many Jews when they begin to celebrate the holiday of Passover, which begins the night of April 10 this year and lasts for eight days after that.

Passover is reportedly the most observed Jewish holiday for American Jews. This means that most Jews in the United States will attend a Seder meal (the festive meals held on the first two nights of Passover), refrain from eating leavened products (called chametz in Hebrew) and will eat matzah, the special unleavened flat bread associated with the holiday. All of these observances commemorate the Jews’ release from slavery in ancient Egypt. This theme, freedom from slavery in Egypt, shapes the Passover holiday and still has a lot to tell all of us today.

At the Seder meal, some Jews sing a song that contains the line, “once we were slaves and now we are free people.” Catchy as the tune may be, the message does not accurately convey the spirit of Passover in the Jewish tradition. For Jews, freedom from slavery in Egypt is not freedom to do anything and everything one wishes to do. It is, as our religious laws teach us, so that we may serve the values and principles of our tradition, so that we may take up the obligations of leading just and thoughtful lives without the excuse that anyone else’s will might constrain us from doing what is proper.

As said, this is a concept that has universal application today. How often do we confuse “freedom” with having no responsibilities, no cares, no obligations but satisfying ourselves? When we let this become our philosophy of life, we are not freeing ourselves; we are in fact enslaving ourselves to our appetites and our desires. This is not true freedom or anything close to it.

Passover teaches us that freedom is the freedom to take on responsibility, to stand up for what one believes in, to not leave it to others to tell us what is right and not to leave it to others to do what is right either, but to do it ourselves. Perhaps that is why so much work goes into preparing for Passover — to be truly free isn’t easy, in fact it is hard work, but the rewards, like those that come from having a house ready for the holiday, are well worth the effort.

Happy Passover and best wishes.

Rabbi Aaron Benson is the rabbi at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Ah, consider the lowly peanut relegated in most culinary estimations to its more popular descendant, peanut butter. True, you seldom see it on a restaurant menu or even in a cookbook. In western cultures it hardly bears mentioning unless you’re talking about something to munch with your martini. In eastern cultures, however, the peanut, also called the ground nut, plays a larger role in native cuisine.

The recipes below will give you a taste (pun intended) of how the peanut figures into both the western and eastern food cultures and exhibit its versatility according to traditional preferences.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the marinade:

½ cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic

2 level teaspoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

²⁄₃ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips

For the peanut sauce:

1 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon curry powder

½ cup peanut butter

²⁄₃ cup chicken broth

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

For the marinade: Stir together the first six ingredients. In a medium bowl, toss with chicken, cover and refrigerate for two hours. If using wooden skewers, soak in hot water until ready to use.

For the sauce: In a small-medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, combine coconut milk, curry powder, peanut butter, chicken broth and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice, soy sauce, cayenne pepper. Add salt to taste (You probably won’t need much). Set aside to keep warm.

Meanwhile heat grill to medium high, remove skewers from water and wipe dry, then thread marinated chicken onto them. Grill 5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to platter and ladle warm peanut sauce over them. Serve with rice and vegetable slaw.

Peanut, Carrot and Mango Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups grated carrots

½ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons sugar

One green chile pepper, seeded and diced

¼ cup red or yellow bell pepper, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Salt, to taste

One mango, peeled and diced

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl, combine the carrots and peanuts. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, chile pepper, bell pepper and cilantro. Combine with peanut and carrot mixture. Add salt and mix again. Fold in mango. Serve immediately with chicken or lamb.

Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle

 

YIELD: Makes one pound

INGREDIENTS:

Butter for greasing pan

2 cups sugar

2 cups roasted salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS: Grease low-rimmed baking sheet. In a heavy skillet combine sugar with 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Steadily, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture turns golden (it happens pretty quickly!). Stir in peanuts and immediately pour and spread mixture onto greased baking sheet. Allow to cool half an hour, until hard. Then break into uneven, asymmetrical pieces before serving with coffee or tea.

By Kevin Redding

Students from across Long Island donned their aprons and unleashed their inner Bobby Flay’s and Julia Child’s last Saturday for a chance to win big at the fifth annual Junior Iron Chef competition at Whole Foods in Lake Grove.

Set up like a high-stakes Food Network show, middle and high school students from various Suffolk and Nassau County school districts treated the cafeteria section of Whole Foods as their cooking arena, with each team of three to five young chefs chopping and sauteing their ingredients, divvying up their tasks in an assembly line of excitement and nerves in their attempt to beat the clock.

WEHM DJ Anthony Cafaro tastes Team Wholly Guacamole’s dish titled Avocado’s dish. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a group of judges surveyed each workstation and breakfast and lunch foods sizzled in the pans, a large crowd of supportive parents, grandparents, siblings and strangers cheered on their team of choice. All the while, DJ Anthony Cafaro, from WEHM, served as the event’s emcee, interviewing the chefs at work and taste-testing each team’s dish. “Oh my God, that’s really good,” Cafaro said as he took a bite of a middle school team’s Breakfast Sushi, a crepe packed with strawberry filling and bananas and served with chopsticks. “You know what, you can’t really tell from the first bite,” he winked as he ate some more.

Hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, the one-day event, described as “part ‘Chopped,’ part ‘Iron Chef,’ and part ‘Food Network Challenge,’” gives middle and high school students the opportunity to work together to complete a recipe of their choosing in under an hour.

As per tradition, the friendly competition also encourages healthier food options by eliminating certain ingredients like meat, fish or nuts and challenging the young chefs to create new healthy vegetarian or vegan-based recipes, including United States Department of Agriculture commodity foods like beans, grains, fruits and vegetables, that use local ingredients provided by Whole Foods and could be easily implemented into school cafeteria menus.

A team from Sewanhaka High School prepares a dish during the competition. Photo by Kevin Redding

According to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H youth Development Director Vicki Fleming, who helped get the event off the ground seven years ago, “If you handed a salad to a kid they might not eat it, but if they make it, it might entice them to try it.” Fleming said she got the idea for the event from a similar junior chef competition that’s been taking place in Vermont for more than 10 years. When Gary Graybosch, prepared foods team leader at Whole Foods, took his department on an educational field trip to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank, members of the organization said they expressed an interest in holding such an event but were unable to find the proper location. It didn’t take long before Graybosch volunteered the cafe section of the store.

“This is great for the community, the kids love it and the parents love it,” Graybosch said. “It teaches the kids how to work together and teaches them how to communicate because they’re not just texting each other, they actually have to speak [to each other] when they’re cooking, so it’s good.”

The 13 middle school teams that competed in the first competition round had to create a breakfast dish while the eight high school teams in the second round had to concoct a lunch dish and implement the event’s mystery ingredient — raspberries — revealed on the day of the event by Graybosch. Elementary school students set up their own tables of treats and smoothies around the store as well. Cafaro, who’s emceed the event since it started, said after the first year he told the organization he’d “do this forever.”

“It’s so great, the kids are unbelievable, they’re doing stuff I can’t even do, and the pro chefs they have as judges are even blown away by some of the skill and levels of talent they have,” he said. “When we started this, there was no real big kid competitions and now there are so many of them — it’s kind of blowing up.”

The judges take some notes as they make their rounds in the cooking arena. Photo by Kevin Redding

Among the 12 judges who graded the dishes based on flavor, health value, creativity and presentation was 14-year-old William Connor from Northport, a contestant on “Chopped Junior” this past fall, and 13-year-old Kayla Mitchell of Center Moriches who was a contestant on the third season of “MasterChef Junior.”

Seneca Middle School’s team Super Fresh Breakfast Boyz from Holbrook won first place for the middle schools for the second year in a row for their Guacamole Sunrise Stack. Students Andrew Battelli, John Durkin, Dom Strebel, Nick Strebel and Hunter Ziems and coach Mary Faller made up the team. Despite a griddle shutting off in the middle of the competition,  Durkin said he and his team were able to persevere. “We had to work together to get through that and we managed to come together and cook it and it came out good,” he said. “[The experience] was very fun overall. We met up and practiced from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. every morning before school for about a month and  half.”

Wholly Guacamole from Sagamore Middle School took second place. Students Molly Grow, Sydney Harmon, Emily Mangan, Sara Ann Mauro, Abigail Weiss, guided by coach Lindsey Shelhorse, won the judges over as runners up with their Avocado’s Nest.

Cow Harbor 4-H Club’s Original French Toasters also grabbed third place with their Banana French Toast with Fruit Syrup. Coached by Kim Gulemi, students Emily Brunkard, Jolie Fay, Ally Gulemi, Alexa Meinen and Stephanie Stegner were awarded for their blend of blueberries, strawberries, syrup and whipped cream.

The Tiger Lilies of Little Flower in Wading River took first place for the high schools for the second year in a row. Coached by  Jennifer Quinlan, students Gianna D’arcangelo, Russell Diener and Alex Mora won with their Lentil Quinoa Kale Broth Bowl. The dish featured a blend of onion, garlic, celery, carrots and tomatoes.

From H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, the Red Hot Chili Peppers secured the second place spot with their Vegetarian Chili. Students Lynn Abby M. Bigord, Akira Jordan, Isabella Legovich and coach Alexandra Andrade made up the team.

Coming in third place were Babylon High School’s BHS Foodies, the ultimate competition underdogs, with their Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. Consisting of Sean Cosgro, Emilie Leibstein, Sophia Levine-Aquino, Hayley Swaine and coach Jenna Schwartz, the team showed up not realizing they had to bring their own equipment. So they approached Graybosch and asked if they could borrow “a pot, pan, chef knife, peeler, and pretty much everything,” according to Cosgro. “We felt so unprepared and so we were so surprised that we placed,” Cosgro said. “I made a lot of ‘Rocky’ references to my group the entire time, saying ‘I feel like we’re the complete underdogs, we’re sort of inexperienced, and this’ll be our ‘Rocky’ moment if we win.’”

Italian Meatballs

By Barbara Beltrami

It seems as though there are as many kinds of meatballs as there are ethnicities to create and cook them, and like most cuisines they make use of flavors that come from ingredients indigenous to the area from which they originate. Surely meatballs, along with so many other dishes, flavors and culinary creations, have become one of the favorite dishes brought to this country by immigrants and fused into what we’ve come to think of as our own cuisine.

Perhaps the most popular are Italian meatballs simmered in a savory tomato sauce; but there are also Swedish meatballs, flavorfully topped with their pale gravy. These are only a few of the many ways cooks over the centuries have rolled ground meat into tasty orbs. No matter your own ethnic origins, these little round treasures from far away places are sure to please your palate.

Italian Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds ground beef, pork or one pound of each

4 large eggs, beaten

2 cups unflavored dried bread crumbs

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon each fresh flat leaf parsley, basil, and oregano (or 1 teaspoon each dried)

One clove garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

One 28-ounce can tomato puree

One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, pureed with their juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One whole onion, peeled

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine meat, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, herbs garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Dipping hands into cold water occasionally, roll mixture into balls the size of a golf or Ping-Pong ball and place on baking sheet with half an inch between them. Bake until brown on top, about 15 minutes, turn and bake another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat tomato puree and plum tomatoes to a simmer, add oil and onion and stir. Gently drop browned meatballs into sauce and stir to submerge them. Simmer or cook on low flame 2 to 3 hours, until sauce is somewhat reduced and thickened. When ready to serve, add salt and pepper to sauce, if needed, and remove onion. Discard or save for another use. Serve with pasta, crusty bread and a salad.

Swedish Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup minced onion

1 cup unflavored bread crumbs

1 cup milk

1 pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

One egg

One onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup flour

¾ cup cream

DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet melt two tablespoons of the butter and sauté the onion until golden brown. In a large bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk, add the meat, egg, onion, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Dipping hands occasionally in cold water, shape the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf or Ping-Pong ball and roll in 3 tablespoons of the flour. Reserve one tablespoon of the flour for later.

Melt remaining butter in skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Shake the pan or nudge the meatballs with a spatula so they retain their round shape. When browned and cooked through, remove and set aside to keep warm. Combine the reserved flour with the cream and with a wire whisk stir gradually into the pan juices. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently until thickened. Pour over meatballs and serve hot with noodles.

Middle Eastern Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground lamb

½ cup minced onion

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ teaspoon finely minced dried rosemary

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried coriander

1 cup plain good quality Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix lamb, onion, mint, cinnamon, lemon zest, salt and pepper, rosemary, and ½ teaspoon cumin. Roll into 16 meatballs and bake, turning once, about 15 minutes per side, until browned. Meanwhile mix yogurt with remaining half teaspoon of cumin and coriander. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with rice or couscous, sliced tomato and cucumber and baked eggplant.

By Bob Lipinski

“Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.” (Irish saying)

Bob Lipinski

Before you begin cooking the corned beef, you will need some good old-fashioned pants-slapping music. Naturally, the Irish Rovers or Clancy Brothers would be a great choice. Now, the best songs to listen to include “The Unicorn,” “The Orange and the Green,” “Goodbye Mrs. Durkin,” “Black Velvet Band,” “Donald Where’s Your Trousers,” “Bridget Flynn,” “Lilly The Pink,” and “Harrigan.”

To help celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, here’s the scoop on corned beef.

The term corned beef has nothing to do with American corn, but rather an English term from the seventeenth century, for curing and preserving a brisket of beef in salt, which at one time was in the form of pellets (or grains of salt), called corns. Today “corning” is the term used to describe the process of curing a brisket of beef by steeping it in a pickling solution.

Here’s what I use to cook corned beef. Photo by Bob Lipinski

Corned beef, a staple of all Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, is generally cooked by steam, although some cooks prefer to boil, bake or even microwave it (ouch, when you see the electric bill.) I have found that steaming the corned beef in a tall pot used for steaming clams minimizes shrinkage, maintains moisture and cooks in less time than other methods. Be certain the bottom of the steamer pot is filled with water, plus the pickling spices, which are often packed with the corned beef. (You can use a tablespoon of pickling spices, available in the supermarket if needed.) Do not trim off any fat pre-cooking; it adds to the moisture. Cook according to the package or your butcher’s advice. To keep the corned beef tender after cooking, let it rest for five minutes before serving. Now, remove any excess fat. To avoid stringy, cooked meat, be certain to slice against the grain.

Between the Irish music, the parade up Fifth Avenue and eating chunks of Irish soda bread, I enjoy beer on Saint Patrick’s Day. Everyone has their favorite and the most popular Irish beers are Beamish, Galway Hooker, Guinness, Harp, Murphy’s, O’Hara’s and Smithwick’s. However, my favorite is Guinness Foreign Export Stout, available only in four-packs. Guinness Stout is relatively low in carbonation and should ideally be served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you prefer wine, my suggestions for white wines are chenin blanc, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc, riesling and sylvaner. Red wines are barbera, Bardolino, Beaujolais, Chianti and pinot noir. Equally fine is rosé, white zinfandel and a blanc de noirs sparkling wine.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com.) He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or bkjm@hotmail.com.

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