Cooking

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.

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

By Barbara Beltrami

People who live in hot climates know about limes. They use them lavishly in savory and sweet dishes as well as drinks and know just how refreshing their taste can be, particularly if they’re key limes, which have an extra intense flavor and tartness. I think a lime dessert on a balmy evening under the stars or as a pick-me-up with just a glass of iced tea or coffee on a steamy afternoon is the supreme finale and palate pleaser when something sweet is in order. Here are three winners to take your taste buds to some really cool places.

Tea Lime Cookies

YIELD: Makes about 2 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup milk

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest

1¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl combine the two teaspoons lime juice and milk; let sit about 5 minutes. In a large bowl use electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg with lime zest; then stir in lime juice-milk mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; blend into butter mixture; drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until edges are pale brown. Let cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and confectioners’ sugar. Brush onto cooled cookies. Serve with iced tea or iced coffee.

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons sugar

½ stick unsalted butter, melted

2½ eight-ounce bricks cream cheese, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons flour

¾ cup Key lime juice

Dash vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, two tablespoons sugar and melted butter. Press onto bottom and partly up sides of a greased 10-inch spring form pan. Bake 5 to 10 minutes; cool on wire rack.

In a large bowl using a mixer on medium-high speed beat cream cheese and three-quarters cup of sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time; then beat in remaining ingredients until mixture is smooth; pour into cooled crust. Bake in 375 F oven for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 250 F and bake another 45 to 55 minutes, until mixture is just set.

Remove from oven, cool on wire rack, cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours. Remove from pan, top with whipped cream if desired, and serve chilled with coffee, tea or honeydew liqueur.

Alice’s Key Lime Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

One 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk

2/3 cup Key lime juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press mixture onto bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Bake about 10 minutes; cool in plate on wire rack. While crust is cooling, using wire whisk attachment to mixer, beat egg yolks with lime zest until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk and continue to beat until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes longer. With mixer speed on low, add lime juice and beat just until blended, no longer. Pour into crust and bake about 10 minutes, until filling is barely set (a knife inserted in center should come out clean). Cool to room temperature, refrigerate, then freeze for half an hour before serving. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin topped with Gremolata

By Barbara Beltrami

A little sprig for a garnish, another little sprig to chop and sprinkle on top, a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, but hardly ever the center of attention. And so it goes with parsley, actually perhaps the most agreeable, versatile, recipe-friendly herb in the garden. What a pity it is so unsung, so taken for granted because it really can figure significantly in a tabbouleh, gremolata or cream of parsley soup. While curly parsley may be prettier, the flat-leaf variety is definitely preferred for its flavor. So cook up some dishes with the latter, but garnish them with the former and enjoy them both. And by the way, I’ve just planted my garden so you haven’t heard the last from me on the subject of herbs. Stay tuned.

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup bulgur wheat

1½ cups boiling water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of two small lemons

Salt to taste

1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch pieces

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

Freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine the bulgur wheat, boiling water, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Stir well, then let sit at room temperature for one hour. Add the parsley, mint, scallions, cucumber and tomatoes; add pepper and more salt if needed; toss and cover; let sit at room temperature for an hour or two. Toss again and serve at room temperature or chilled with fish, poultry or meat and tzatziki.

Gremolata

Roasted Beef Tenderloin
topped with Gremolata

YIELD: Makes ¾ to 1 cup

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves

Zest of one small lemon

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse several times until mixture is semismooth. With rubber spatula, scrape sides of bowl and pulse 4 or 5 more times. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Serve with fish, poultry or meat.

Cream of Parsley Soup

Cream of Parsley Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 bunches Italian flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 Vidalia onion, diced

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup light or heavy cream or half-and-half

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

1 pint sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare a large bowl with ice water; layer several sheets of paper towels. In a large saucepan bring 1½ quarts of water to a boil; drop parsley into water and boil until soft and bright green, about 1 to 1½ minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove parsley and drop gently into ice water. When cool, remove and squeeze out excess water; place on paper towels and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Chop parsley and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat; add garlic and onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add broth and cream and stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add parsley and salt and pepper; stir and cook another 5 minutes.

Let cool slightly; transfer to food processor or blender, add lemon juice and puree until smooth. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and accompanied by a dry white wine and toasted baguette slices drizzled with olive oil.

Latin-Inspired Burgers

By Barbara Beltrami

Is there any food as All-American as the hamburger? I doubt it. Ground beef, a good shot of ketchup, maybe a slice of cheese or a couple of strips of bacon and that’s it. But with the American population now comprised of so many ethnic groups, we are no longer just a simple burger on a soft white bun, as it were. 

We are Afro-American and Asian and Latino and Middle Eastern among many others and bring our colorful cultures and favorite foods to the grill and the table. And the men and women who so faithfully serve and have sacrificed their lives for our country are also from those cultures. So let’s take time from the Memorial Day sales, the first forays to the beach and the barbecues with families and friends to remember that. Here are four hamburger variations I’ve concocted that will help us keep it in mind. 

Middle Eastern-Inspired Burgers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef or lamb

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup hummus

¼ cup chopped black olives

1 medium tomato, cut into 4 slices

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

4 hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill on high setting. In medium bowl combine ground meat, onion, mint, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper and cumin. Form into 4 patties; poke hole in center of each patty, insert feta, then press meat mixture over it so feta is in middle of patty. Grill 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Drizzle olive oil on one half of each bun, then spread with hummus; place burger on top, then olives, tomato and yogurt. Serve with couscous and cucumber salad.

Afro-American-Inspired Burgers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef

1 cup barbecue sauce

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup corn kernels

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup chopped cooked greens

1 cup chopped cooked okra

1 cup chopped tomatoes

8 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

4 hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to high setting. In medium bowl, combine beef with half the barbecue sauce and all the onions and corn. Form into 4 patties; season with salt and pepper. Grill, basting with remaining barbecue sauce, 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Place on buns, and top with greens, okra, tomatoes and bacon. Serve with sweet potato fries and cole slaw. 

Latin-Inspired Burgers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef

4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small tomato, finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

Salt to taste

4 hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill on high setting. In medium bowl, combine first 7 ingredients; divide mixture into 4 patties. Grill 3 to 5 minutes each side depending on desired doneness. Place on buns with choice of cheese, lettuce and a slice of tomato. Serve with bean salad, salsa, guacamole, corn chips and ice cold beer.

Asian-Inspired Burgers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef

½ cup finely chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Garlic salt to taste

½ cup wasabi mayonnaise

2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

½ cup chopped scallion

4 hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to high setting. In a medium bowl, combine beef, green pepper, hoisin and Sriracha sauces, sesame oil, ginger and red pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly and form into 4 patties; sprinkle with garlic salt and grill 3 to 5 minutes per side depending on desired doneness. Spread wasabi mayonnaise on one half of each bun; top with beef patty, then lettuce and scallions. Serve with cold rice or noodle salad.

Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Carpe diem! Any day now, if it hasn’t already happened, soft shell crabs will be available in fish markets. Usually in season locally from late spring through summer, these tasty crustaceans, actually blue crabs that have molted their exoskeleton and are edible in their entirety, are a seafood lover’s ultimate summer treat. 

Soft shell crabs are at their best, I think, when lightly floured and shallow fried, but some would say it’s when they’re deep fried. They must be eaten when they are really really fresh and once cooked require no more than a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. However, if you want to think outside the box, you might try them with a coconut topping. 

Fried Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

1¾ cups milk

4 fresh cleaned soft shell crabs

1 cup flour

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg

½ cup of milk

2 or more cups vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

Pour 1¾ cups of milk into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the crabs in one layer. Place crabs in milk and soak, turning once, for one hour. Combine flour, salt and pepper; dredge crabs in mixture. In a shallow dish beat egg with half cup of milk; dip crabs in mixture to coat thoroughly, then dip crabs in flour mixture again. 

Pour oil to a depth of at least 3 inches in a large skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Being careful to avoid spatter, gently place the crabs in oil, fry until golden brown, about 1½ minutes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes total time. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with cole slaw and ice cold beer.

Sautéed Soft Shell Crabs

Sautéed Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¾ cups milk

4 fresh cleaned soft shell crabs

1 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

One lemon, quartered

DIRECTIONS:

Pour milk into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the crabs in one layer. Place crabs in milk and soak them, turning once, for one hour. Remove crabs; discard milk. Season flour with salt and pepper and lightly dredge crabs in it.  Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; sauté crabs, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes total time. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crisp dry white wine.

Coconut-Coated Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 sautéed soft shell crabs

½ cup coconut flakes

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Place oven rack 8 inches from broiler; preheat broiler. In a small bowl combine coconut, mustard, salt, hot pepper and egg white. Place crabs, top side up, on broiler pan; with back of large spoon press coconut mixture onto top shells of crabs; spread and pat down; drizzle with melted butter. Place broiler pan on prepared rack; broil until coconut mixture is golden brown and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with tropical fruit salad and rice.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

By Barbara Beltrami

Have you noticed how moms are always eating salads? They have them for lunch, they order them in restaurants, they serve them with a lot of things they cook and they even try to get you to eat more of them. Yep! Moms love salads. So how about preparing a super-duper salad or two for her on Mother’s Day? Here are some that she’ll love — for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So take your pick … or do all three. And if you join her in eating them, she’ll be oh, so happy.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

½ pineapple, peeled and diced

1 mango, peeled and diced

½ ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced

¼ ripe honeydew, peeled, seeded and diced

2 kiwis, peeled and diced

1 cup raspberries, washed and dried

1 cup blackberries, washed and dried

1 cup blueberries, washed and dried

¼ cup honey

Zest and juice of one orange

1 pint coconut yogurt

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted (optional)

 DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwis and berries. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, orange zest and juice and yogurt. Cover and refrigerate both mixtures until 30 minutes before serving. Do not prepare more than 4 hours ahead of time, though. Spoon fruit onto fancy dish or in large wine glasses; top with yogurt mixture, then almonds if desired. Serve with muffins or biscotti.

Lobster-Stuffed Tomato with Shrimp and Israeli Couscous

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

 INGREDIENTS:

4 large ripe tomatoes

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 cups lobster meat, diced

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

8 leaves bibb lettuce

8 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

DIRECTIONS:

Slice enough off the top of each tomato to make a wide opening. With a serrated or sharp spoon, scoop out the tomato pulp. Mince flesh from tomato tops and combine with pulp. In a medium bowl combine with couscous, olive oil and salt and pepper; set aside. In a large bowl combine the lobster, mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice, dill and salt and pepper. Carefully scoop lobster mixture into hollowed-out tomatoes. Place lettuce leaves, curved side down, on four plates. On one lettuce leaf place the lobster-filled tomato; on the other leaf place a scoop of the couscous mixture. Top each scoop with a shrimp. Cover and refrigerate until 20 minutes before ready to serve. Can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead of time. Serve chilled with buttered multigrain toast cut into triangles.

Little Chef’s Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

 INGREDIENTS:

1½ heads bibb, romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, washed, dried and chopped

1/3 pound Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese, cut into very thin strips

1/3 pound grilled chicken breast, cut into very thin strips

1/3 pound baked ham, cut into very thin strips

4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered or sliced

1 ripe avocado, peeled, sliced and doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 green bell pepper, washed, seeded and cut into very thin strips

16 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

½English cucumber, finely diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup salad dressing or to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

Arrange lettuce on four plates or one large platter. Lay cheese, chicken and ham in evenly spaced-apart diagonal stripes across lettuce. In between stripes lay egg and avocado and pepper and tomatoes; sprinkle cucumber over top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with salad dressing. Serve chilled with crusty rolls and butter.

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

By Barbara Beltrami

Except for a carefully manicured lawn or oversized SUV, I think there is nothing as emblematic of suburbia as the outdoor grill. However, in these days of more conscientious and healthful eating habits it is likely to conjure up an image rather different from that of former times. Then, Dad, garbed in a chef’s toque, oversized potholder mitt and motto-inscribed apron, stood in a cloud of black smoke flipping hamburgers, spearing hot dogs and slathering ribs and chicken with viscous crimson sauces. 

These days the grill still signifies suburbia, but the fare is just as likely to be fish, shellfish or veggies doused with marinades of oils, vinegars, juices and herbs or rubbed with spices, and it’s just as likely to be Mom wielding those tongs or spatula. The weather is warmer, spring is here and summer is just around the corner, so uncover that grill and get going!

Margarita-Marinated Grilled Swordfish

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds swordfish, cut into 4 pieces

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup tequila

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ cup chopped onion

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 lime, quartered

2 handfuls fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse swordfish steaks and pat dry. In a shallow nonreactive dish combine lime juice, tequila, oil, cumin, onion, salt and pepper; add swordfish, sprinkle with half the cilantro, cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Turn, cover and marinate 30 minutes more. At midpoint in marinating process, prepare the grill and preheat on medium. After the hour of marinating, place fish on grill and cook, gently turning once, 3 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on its thickness; baste with leftover marinade. Remove from grill, garnish with fresh lime wedges and remaining cilantro; serve hot or warm with a bean salad.

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¾ stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons dry white wine

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Juice and zest of half a lemon

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound linguini

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare grill on high heat. Tear off two pieces of 18-inch-long foil; lay on top of each other. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; transfer to center of foil; fold long ends of foil over each other to create a seal, then bring short ends up and fold tightly to ensure that the packet is completely sealed. Let sit while you bring a pot of water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions; while pasta is cooking, place foil packet on grill. Each should take about 8 to 10 minutes; pasta is done when al dente; shrimp is done when completely pink. Place pasta in a large serving bowl; open packet carefully to let steam escape and empty contents over pasta. Toss and serve immediately with a crisp green salad and dry white wine.

Grilled Potatoes and Vidalia Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch-thick slices

4 Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into ¾-inch-thick slices

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to medium-high. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine olive oil and salt and pepper and with a pastry brush, coat both sides of potato and onion slices with mixture; place on grill and turning once when bottoms of slices are dark brown, grill until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm with grilled fish, shellfish, meat or fowl.