Cooking

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

By Barbara Beltrami

Like so many holidays, Rosh Hashana, which begins the Jewish New Year on the evening of Sept. 9, features an assortment of traditional foods. Among them are carrots, pomegranates, fish and, last but not least, bread, apples and honey. Each of these has a symbolic association with the idea of plenty, prosperity, newness, beauty and sweetness — all very happy and positive bodings for the new year. I would love to go into what each means, but my editor would have a conniption if I wrote all that. Anyway, below are recipes that feature three of those very important elements of the Rosh Hashana table … apples and honey for a sweet and happy new year and challah for a prosperous one.

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

Apple-Honey Loaf Cake

 

YIELD: Makes two 9×5×3-inch loaves.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 apples peeled, cored and shredded 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour loaf pans. In a large bowl combine sugar and oil; add eggs and beat until mixture is pale yellow. Stir in ¾ cup of the honey and vanilla. In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir into egg mixture just until moistened. Fold in apples. Pour batter into loaf pans; bake 45 minutes or until cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Heat remaining quarter cup of honey until warm. Let cake cool 15 minutes, then invert onto plate, prick with a fork and drizzle warm honey over top. Serve with dessert wine, coffee or tea.

Holiday Challah

Holiday Challah

YIELD: Makes 2 large loaves.

INGREDIENTS:

Four ¼-ounce packages quick-rise yeast

4 cups warm (105–115 F) water

2 tablespoons salt

¾ cup sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening, melted

4 eggs

10 to 12 cups bread flour (approximate)

1 egg

¼ cup poppy seeds

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; stir to moisten. Stir in salt, sugar, shortening and the 4 eggs. Gradually mix in flour, one cupful at a time until dough becomes slightly sticky but not wet. (You may not need all the flour.) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Grease two baking sheets and set aside. Cut dough into two equal pieces, then divide each of those pieces into 3 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll each of the smaller pieces into a 12-inch rope about the thickness of a thumb, but thicker in the middle and thinner toward each end. For each loaf, braid the 3 ropes, pinch together and tuck under at ends. Gently pat each loaf into a circular shape and lift onto baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel let rise in a warm place until double in size, 60 to 90 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat remaining egg with ½ teaspoon water and brush top of each loaf with mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake until tops are shiny and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

Flatbread with Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

By Barbara Beltrami

One of the nice things about the influx of immigrants in recent years is that they’ve brought with them cultures that we were formerly unfamiliar with and have added a whole new dimension to our own culture and cuisine. 

For years, we’ve accepted and taken for granted the cuisines that western European and British immigrants brought with them and actually integrated them into what we now think of as basic American cuisine. But now dishes from regions in the Far and Near East as well as the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America have also assumed dynamic roles in our basic American cuisine. 

A good example is flatbread. Acting as the base for a limitless number of toppings, it makes a great light meal, tasty appetizer and healthful snack.

Basic Flatbread

YIELD: Makes approximately 20 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

2¼ ounces active dry yeast

1¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup warm (100 F) water

2 teaspoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, flour and salt. Slowly add water and mix until dough starts to form a ball. Coat hands and a flat surface with flour and knead dough until it feels smooth and elastic. Place dough in oil-coated large bowl; cover with a clean damp linen or cotton towel; and let sit in a warm place about one hour or until doubled in size. Remove from bowl to floured surface and punch and knead gently. Separate dough into golf ball size pieces. With a rolling pin flatten each piece into a ⅛-inch-thick disk. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium setting and cook disk until dough begins to bubble, about one minute, flip it and cook other side. Serve warm with olives, olive oil, hummus, tzatziki or baba ghanoush or top with other ingredients in this column and broil.

Tomato, Feta, Chickpea and Kalamata Olive Topping

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and lightly mashed

2 large garden tomatoes, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup pitted chopped Kalamata olives

¹/₃ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat broiler. Arrange first five ingredients on flatbread; drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with black pepper; and place on a broiler pan rack and broil until topping starts to bubble, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm with hard or soft cold drinks and spinach salad.

Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

Flatbread with Ricotta, Swiss Chard and Scallion Topping

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, washed and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch scallions, cleaned, washed and sliced thin

1 cup fresh ricotta

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 

Grated zest of half a lemon

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a large covered skillet over medium heat, cook Swiss chard with salt, pepper and one cup water until limp and tender. When cool enough to handle, squeeze or press out all liquid and divide and spread evenly on flatbreads. Top with scallions and ricotta. Broil until bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes, remove, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with lemon zest and salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm with tomato and onion salad and cold drinks.

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

By Barbara Beltrami

“Please pass the potato salad.” Famous last or more likely first words at many a party, picnic or barbecue. Who among us does not adore the tangy taste of that ubiquitous combination of potatoes and dressing? And while that dressing may range from vinegar and oil to mayonnaise to whipped or sour cream, there is one constant to all good potato salad recipes: The potatoes are freshly cooked, not left over. 

Additions such as herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, capers, mustard or pickles can always dress up the salad, but for me, the more basic the recipe, the less interference with that wonderful marriage of potatoes and dressing. 

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

1½ cups mayonnaise or to taste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

¼ pound crisp fried bacon, crumbled

5 hard boiled eggs quartered

1 medium red onion, minced

2 celery ribs, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender; rinse under cold water, drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Mix mayonnaise with vinegar; add bacon, eggs, onion, celery and tomato. While they are still warm, slice or coarsely chop but do not peel potatoes.In a large bowl, toss with mayonnaise mixture, salt and pepper; sprinkle parsley on top.  Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with sandwiches, grilled meat or poultry or cold cuts.

Potato Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons dry white wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves

½ cup fresh chopped chives

¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 scallions, very thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender; rinse under cold water, drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. In a medium bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, wine, herbs, scallions, salt and pepper; toss with potatoes and serve warm or at room temperature with cold cuts, poultry, or beef or other salads.

Old-Fashioned Basic Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

2 cups good mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 celery ribs finely chopped

1 medium red onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside till cool enough to handle. In a medium bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, celery, onion, salt and pepper. In large bowl, toss with potatoes. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with barbecued chicken, burgers, hot dogs or steaks.

Summer Garden Pasta

By Barbara Beltrami

As much as a hearty ragu with rigatoni is welcome in the winter, so is a light sauce with capellini, spaghetti or farfalle in the summer. Summer pastas call for delicate shapes, light ingredients and minimal saucing. They also require taking advantage of summer veggies, using fresh tomatoes rather than canned ones, and seasoning with lots of fresh herbs. This is the time to let your imagination take you on a cook’s tour, to invent as you go along and to use unlikely fresh ingredients like arugula, melon (that’s right!), citrus and fish.

Summer Garden Pasta

Summer Garden Pasta

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta

1 pound very small zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into small dice

½ medium red onion, peeled and cut into small dice

½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice

2 celery ribs, cut into small dice

2 large tomatoes, cut into small dice

2 carrots, peeled and minced or shredded

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile combine the veggies, basil and parsley in a large bowl. When pasta is al dente, drain well and add, along with the olive oil, to the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Serve immediately with a crisp dry white or rose wine.

Pasta with Baby Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

Pasta with Baby Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes and Chives

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta

1pound baby shrimp

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup chopped fresh chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Saute shrimp and garlic in two tablespoons of the olive oil until shrimp are pink and garlic releases its aroma, one to two minutes. Set shrimp aside; discard garlic. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, puree tomatoes in a food processor. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining oil and add tomatoes with their juice. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add shrimp, chives and salt and pepper; continue cooking another 5 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Toss with pasta in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature with a spinach salad.

Spaghetti with Cantaloupe and Prosciutto

Spaghetti with Cantaloupe and Prosciutto

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound spaghettini

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed, cut into small dice

1cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon tomato paste

2 ounces prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over high heat, combine butter and oil. When very hot, but not smoking, add melon and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes, until soft but not mushy. Add cream, lemon juice and tomato paste and cook over high  heat until reduced to one-quarter its original volume. As soon as pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to large serving bowl. Toss with sauce, prosciutto, salt and pepper. Serve with a salad of baby greens and sliced grape tomatoes.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting and Sprinkles

By Barbara Beltrami

When the kids get tired of their tablets and cellphones (lol), when it’s so hot that everybody is fighting to get in front of the AC vents, or when summer vacation is past the halfway mark and boredom sets in, it’s cupcakes to the rescue. Easy and user friendly, the following basic recipes for cupcakes and their frostings leave lots of room for creativity.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Butter Frosting topped with Chocolate Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

One stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1¾ cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Fill 12 muffin cups with paper liners. With electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture; do not overbeat. Stir in vanilla. Fill muffin cups ⅔ full and bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden and pulling away slightly from sides of pan. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. When cool, top with frosting of choice. Serve with chocolate milk or lemonade.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting topped with Pink Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup cocoa

1 cup hot water

1⅔ cups flour

1½ cups sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup soft unsalted butter

2 eggs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Mix cocoa and water until smooth; let cool. Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and cocoa mixture; scraping sides of bowl frequently, beat two minutes on medium speed of mixer. Add eggs and beat two more minutes. Fill muffin cups half full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from muffin tin and cool on wire rack. Frost as desired. Serve with milk or orangeade.

Vanilla Butter Frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting topped with Confetti Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup soft unsalted butter

3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

3 tablespoons cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Blend butter and sugar together; stir in cream and vanilla till smooth.

Chocolate Butter Frosting

Make vanilla frosting but stir in three squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, into blended mixture.

Orange or Lemon Frosting

Make vanilla butter frosting but omit vanilla and replace cream with same amount of orange or lemon juice.

Oven-Fried Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

When I was a little kid, there were three elderly women, Harriet, Tess and Bea, friends of my grandmother, who shared a beach bungalow on some little island off the Connecticut coast. Each summer we would pack the car and make our annual pilgrimage to visit them. 

It always seemed there was so much to do there. They would send us on scavenger hunts for prizes from the dime store or foraging for beach glass. We fished, dug clams, husked corn and ate cucumbers and tomatoes from their garden and helped them make jam from the wild berries along the road. We baked cakes and cookies and pies and played cards and checkers and Monopoly on the porch.  

But best of all were the picnics, the highlights of our time there. Harriet insisted there was only one menu for any real picnic, and it could not be altered or amended. Her fried chicken took center stage while Tess’ potato salad sat in a Pyrex bowl right beside it along with Bea’s deviled eggs. Sliced tomatoes were obligatory as were iced tea and lemonade and, of course, watermelon. They would never share their recipes, but I think these are pretty good approximations.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 broiler-fryer chickens, cut into 4 pieces each

1 quart buttermilk

1 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Place chicken in a large shallow baking dish; pour buttermilk over it and coat thoroughly; turn to coat other side. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning once. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chicken from buttermilk and pat lightly with paper towels; discard buttermilk. 

Dip chicken first in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour oil into large shallow baking pan; place chicken in pan and place in oven; bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once, until chicken is crisp. Remove chicken, drain on paper towels and serve hot, at room temperature or cold with potato salad, deviled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed

½ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced red onion

½ cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup (or more) mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Boil potatoes until tender but firm; cool to room temperature; cut into bite-size chunks, if necessary. In a large bowl combine with celery, onion and parsley. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard, salt and pepper; add to potato mixture and combine. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately at room temperature with fried chicken, devilled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 hard-boiled eggs

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Remove egg shells, then cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with salt, mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne. With a small teaspoon, scoop mixture back into egg whites. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately with fried chicken, potato salad and sliced tomatoes.

By Barbara Beltrami

One of the bumper crops produced by summer backyard gardens and featured by farm stands is the cucumber, ever popular for its crunchy texture and ease of preparation. Comfortable as a mere salad ingredient for its crispness, the main attraction of a cold cucumber soup to inaugurate a summer meal, or a tzatziki accompanying a barbecue, the cucumber lends itself easily to summer fare. 

There are those who say the skin should be left on; then there are those who say the skin should be pared; and there are also those who say the skin should be pared but not completely — just in alternate stripes and a fork run down the sides to create a fancy presentation after slicing. 

Beyond those are the people who like their cucumbers sliced ultra thin and those who claim that the cucumber is at its best when cut into spears, the seeds scooped out and the spears diced. Whatever your preference, I hope you find the recipes that follow handy additions to your summer repertoire.

Cucumber Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt

1 cup white or cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Sprinkle cucumbers lightly with salt and let stand 10 minutes. Rinse, drain and place in serving dish. Combine vinegar, sugar, ground pepper and bell pepper and let sit 5 minutes. Pour over cucumbers. Sprinkle dish with parsley. Serve at room temperature with meat or poultry.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Cold Cucumber Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cups unpeeled diced cucumber

1 cup arugula leaves, chopped and de-stemmed

1 potato, peeled and minced

2 cups chicken broth

2 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup heavy cream

Chopped scallions or radishes for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium or large saucepan, melt the butter, then cook the onion in it until it is transparent. Add cucumber, arugula, potato, broth, parsley, salt and pepper and dry mustard. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes until potato is tender. Puree in an electric food processor. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, add cream, stir well and garnish. Serve with salad, fish, chicken, sandwiches or slices of an interesting bread.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki

YIELD: Makes approximately 1½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ English cucumber, peeled and grated

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and using small spoon, scrape out the seeds if there are any. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the cucumber. In a medium bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, garlic, dill, mint, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with pita bread and lamb, eggplant, hummus or other Mediterranean dishes.

Rosemary Sorbet

By Barbara Beltrami

Back in the days when Atlantic City was Atlantic City and not Las Vegas, before grand old hotels that smelled vaguely of dampness and time had given way to glitzy casinos hermetically sealed off from sea breezes, before the roll of the dice replaced the thundering of ocean waves — years ago when the best bet in town was a paper sack of salt water taffy or chocolate fudge — those were the  days when, innocent of the perils of youth or bronzing, we lay on the beach amid the mingled scents of salt,  suntan lotion and roasting hot dogs and contemplated the glistening bodies of wannabe beach bums and babes.

As our radios wailed and thumped songs of unrequited love and a few years later of making love, not war, we propped ourselves on our elbows and gave squinty surveillance to our sandy surroundings and their occupants. 

We could see him coming far down the beach. He was a short, rather paunchy fellow who sported a white T-shirt, a thick black mustache and a sparse black comb over. Trudging along the sand and dragging his two-wheeled cart behind him, he would zigzag his way among the gaudy patches that were our beach blankets. Then, as his approach became imminent and unavoidable, we would sit up and fish quarters from the pockets of our tumbled pile of clothing and listen to him calling out his wares. “Ice pops here!”

 Stopping and planting his portly body in front of us so as to carefully block our tanning rays, his eyes twinkling just a tad lasciviously, he would loudly cajole us, everyone and no one in particular, “Hey! Good-lookin’, come on, give your tongue a sleigh ride, give your chick a lick on a stick.” 

Call them what you will — ices, sorbets, sherbets, granitas or pops, a scoop by any other name would taste as sweet and delightfully cooling on a sultry July day.

Rosemary Sorbet

Rosemary Sorbet

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 stalks fresh rosemary

2 cups sugar

5 cups water

2 cups white wine

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine rosemary, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. When syrup reaches boiling point, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then strain; discard rosemary. In a medium bowl combine 2½  cups syrup with wine and lemon juice, place in a freezer container 3 to 4 hours and stir every half hour or so or until slushy or place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Cover and freeze. Scoop into small dishes, garnish with rosemary sprigs before serving.

Lime Sherbet

Lime Sherbet

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

2/3 cup sugar 

1¾ cup water

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 egg whites

Thin half-slices lime for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

Soak gelatin in ¼ cup cold water, In small saucepan combine sugar and 1¾ cup water and heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until well chilled. Add lime juice, then stiffly beaten but not dry egg whites. Place in freezer container and stir every half hour or so until slushy or process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place in small dishes, garnish with lime slices before serving.

Raspberry Granita

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen raspberries, pureed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium sauce pan, stirring frequently, bring water and sugar to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer 5 minutes; let syrup cool to room temperature. Stir in raspberry puree and lemon juice. Pour mixture into 9×9-inch brownie pan. Freeze, stirring and scraping sides every half hour for 3 to 4 hours until mixture has a fine snowy texture. Cover and keep in freezer until ready to serve.

Fried Squash Blossoms

By Barbara Beltrami

The first time I ever saw or heard of squash blossoms as an edible commodity was many years ago in Provence. It was market day in the little town where we were staying, and I wandered from stall to stall ogling the pyramids of perfect fruits and veggies. I kept encountering certain golden blossoms in front of hand-lettered signs saying, “Fleurs de courgette,” which I knew translated into squash blossoms. 

I decided I would surprise my husband and show him what a good little French cook I was and make them for dinner. Young and foolish and not wanting to appear stupid, I was afraid to ask how one cooked them. Instead, I shored up my courage and my French and told the man in the stall that I’d like a kilo of them. He eyed me rather strangely but complied with a “Merci, Madame” and something that looked an awful lot like a smirk. 

I took the squash blossoms back to the house, washed them under hot running water and proceeded to boil them. Mon dieu! What a soggy slimy yellow unrecognizable mess I had wrought. I fed it to the resident goat and never told my husband about my sortie into French produce. 

The next day we decided to explore the town and have dinner at a little sidewalk café on the corner and there on the menu were “Fleurs de courgette!” Of course, I ordered them, and when they arrived, I had before me three beautiful gently fried squash blossoms stuffed with a creamy goat cheese and sprinkled with chervil. Since then I’ve encountered many a squash blossom from my own garden and in restaurants here in the States, but none of them have been as delicious as those very first ones I tasted.

Note: If you are harvesting squash blossoms from your garden, pick the male ones, which are on stems, rather than the female ones, which have a little bump on the end that will grow into squash.

Fried Squash Blossoms

Fried Squash Blossoms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings as an appetizer

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup flour

1 large egg

½ cup sparkling water

12 to 16 squash blossoms

Extra virgin olive oil to cover bottom of medium skillet

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small-medium bowl, whisk together the flour and egg, then add sparkling water and continue whisking until smooth. Gently rinse blossoms in cold water and pat dry. Remove pistils. Heat oil in skillet. Meanwhile dip blossoms in batter. When oil is very hot but not smoking, carefully lower the batter-dipped blossoms into the oil. When they are golden brown on the bottom, gently turn and brown the other side. Remove them from the oil, drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Serve hot with prosecco and thin bread sticks.

Squash Blossom Frittata

Squash Blossom Frittata

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup minced shallot

16 squash blossoms, stems and pistils removed

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

7 large eggs, beaten

Handful fresh Italian parsley, washed and chopped

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat broiler. Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced shallot; reduce heat to medium and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add blossoms and gently sauté until just wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange blossoms in an attractive circular pattern around skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Add eggs and cook until beginning to set around edges, lifting frittata with heatproof rubber spatula and allowing eggs to flow underneath. Continue cooking until eggs are softly set, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer skillet to broiler; broil until top of frittata is set, about 1 minute. Using a large plate and pot holders, invert skillet and slide frittata onto plate so bottom side is up and squash blossom pattern is visible.  Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a mixed green salad, baguette slices and extra virgin olive oil or melon, croissants and unsalted butter.

Steamed Clams

By Barbara Beltrami

There are some foods that need all the help they can get for flavor, and there are other foods that are exquisite as they are and need very little or no help. With their briny natural flavor, clams are a perfect example of the latter. In fact, their only permissible enhancements should be fresh lemon or melted butter. Chilled, freshly opened and slurped from the half shell, they are peerless for succulence. Steamed and served with their own broth, they are voluptuously pleasing to the palate. And roasted or grilled, they are simply scrumptious. And in a sauce over a delicate pasta? Divine. Here are three basic recipes that feature clams with minimal secondary ingredients. It would be criminal to camouflage or detract from that sweetly brackish flavor.

Steamed Clams

Steamed Clams

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 pounds soft shell clams

1½ sticks unsalted butter

Juice of one lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

2½ cups cold water

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, cut into thirds

1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS: 

Soak the clams in a large pot of cold water, move them around a bit, let them settle, then change water and repeat procedure twice until clams are very clean and there is no sand in the bottom of the pot. In a small pan, melt butter over low heat, then add lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Set aside to keep warm. 

In a large pot combine the two and a half cups water, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes; add clams and cover pot. Check in about 5 minutes for clams to be open. Discard any clams that don’t open after a few more minutes. 

Transfer opened clams to a large serving bowl; set aside to keep warm. Remove and discard onion, celery and bay leaf; pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and stop before you get to the sediment at the bottom of the pot. Pour the hot broth into small bowls or cups, likewise with the melted butter and place one of each at each diner’s place. Put bowl of clams, accompanied by another bowl or two for discarded shells, in the middle of the table. Serve with ice cold beer, lots of crusty bread and plenty of napkins.

Roasted Clams

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

24 medium hard-shell clams

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ stick butter, melted

Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 450 F. Scrub clams under cold running water; arrange in shallow roasting or baking pan. Bake 5 minutes or until shells open; remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove top shell; serve on lower shell after sparingly seasoning with salt and pepper and drizzling or brushing with melted butter. Serve with freshly picked corn on the cob, sliced garden tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic bread.

Clam Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds littleneck or Manila clams, well scrubbed and rinsed

½ cup water or dry white wine

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ stick butter

1 handful parsley, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot, steam the clams in water or wine until they open. Remove clams from pot; discard any that do not open; reserve cooking liquid. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the clams from their shells, cut up any large ones and set aside to keep warm. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, cook garlic in butter 3 to 4 minutes until it releases its aroma. Carefully add the cooking liquid; be sure to leave residual sand in pot. Add parsley and pepper, then clams; cover and gently reheat, but do not overcook, when ready to serve. Serve with capelllini or linguine and a crisp green salad.

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