Cooking

Blueberry Scones

By Barbara Beltrami

Our British legacy, along with our language and customs, includes scones. At lunch the other day my friends and I ordered scones for dessert and I was reminded of just how good they can be with clotted cream and raspberry jam or even with butter or olive oil, if they’re savory rather than sweet. With our pinkies well extended we sipped tea and got caught up on each other’s lives and felt very civilized. Always the purist, I ordered the traditional scone with raisins. My more adventurous companions opted for the less conventional versions, and we all had a wonderful tea party.

Basic Scones

Blueberry Scones

YIELD: Makes 12 scones

INGREDIENTS:

2¾ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

8 ounces cold unsalted butter

1½ cups dried currants

2 large eggs

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup light cream

2 teaspoons milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. With a pastry blender or fork, mash in the butter until mixture has a lumpy-crumbly texture; stir in currants. In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs, vanilla and cream; then stir into the dry mixture until thoroughly combined.

Sprinkle a little flour over an ungreased baking sheet. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a 6-inch round disc that is about ¾ inch high. Brush each disc with a teaspoon of milk, then sprinkle with the two tablespoons granulated sugar.

Carefully and gently cut each disc into 6 wedges and pull the wedges away from the center so that they are barely separated, not touching. Place, uncovered, in freezer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F. Bake scones until golden brown and cooked through with no wet spots showing, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 to 10 minutes on baking sheet. Serve warm with clotted cream, butter, jam or all of the above.

For other sweet scone variations substitute one of the following for the currants:

Raisins, chopped dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans or walnuts or 1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest

For savory scones, omit the vanilla extract and final 2 tablespoons sugar, reduce the 1/3 cup sugar to 2 tablespoons and add one of the following:

1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried, 1½ cups chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) or 2 tablespoons freshly ground coarse black pepper. Serve with butter or extra virgin olive oil.

Clotted Cream

Clotted Cream

YIELD: Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup pasteurized but not ultra -pasteurized heavy cream

1 cup pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized light cream

DIRECTIONS:

Line a medium fine mesh strainer with a paper towel; place over a small-medium bowl. Leaving an inch at the top, pour in cream. Refrigerate for 2 hours. The liquid (whey) will drip through and leave a ring of clotted cream around top; with a rubber spatula, scrape this down.

Repeat procedure until a cup or so of clotted cream is left. Discard liquid. Serve clotted cream with warm scones and raspberry jam.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

By Barbara Beltrami

With the spring holidays falling simultaneously this year, it’s nice to share recipes that are appropriate for either Easter or Passover dinner. And with meat becoming less and less the centerpiece for these occasions and vegetables becoming more and more the main attraction, the old boiled and baked versions need some updating. Adding lemon and/or herbs is one way to make those veggies more interesting; combining and roasting them is another. And while all veggies can be tweaked and turned into wonderful accompaniments and features for the holidays, because it is spring, I like to focus on the seasonal ones. The following recipes are all oven done and can be cooked right along with a roast.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 shallots, diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Lay asparagus in greased shallow nonreactive baking pan. In a small bowl whisk together remaining ingredients, drizzle over asparagus and toss to coat well. Roast until asparagus is tender but still bright green, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to warm platter and drizzle any remaining juices over top. Serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish. 

Roasted Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large zucchini, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large eggplant, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped

4 medium tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients together in a large baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and, scraping and stirring 2 or 3 times, bake for 30 minutes or until all veggies are tender. Remove foil and roast another 10 to 15 minutes until slightly brown. Transfer to a warm dish and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

Tarragon Roasted Carrots and Fennel

 YIELD: Makes 8 servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch diagonal slices

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch wedges

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place carrots and fennel in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, tarragon, salt and pepper and pour over veggies; toss thoroughly to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until tender; remove foil and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until slightly brown on top. Transfer to warm platter and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

 New Potato Pancake with Green Onions

 YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

 INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced very thin

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously grease 9-inch iron skillet or round baking pan. In a large bowl, toss together the potato slices, onion, oil, salt and pepper and turn into skillet or baking pan. Smooth out mixture so all potato slices are lying flat. Bake until potatoes are tender and bottom of mixture is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat broiler; slide pan under broiler and cook until top is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove, loosen sides and bottom with spatula and invert onto warm serving platter or leave right side up, if desired and top with parsley. Serve warm or hot with meat, poultry or fish.

By Barbara Beltrami

Years ago my friend told me about how she used baked wonton wrappers as little pastry cups to hold all sorts of fillings and served them as hors d’oeuvres. And what a clever idea it turned out to be. Although doing that wasn’t her own idea … she had gotten it from another friend…whoever originally dreamed up such a convenient and elegant idea for hors d’oeuvres deserves some sort of prize. Since the time my friend shared the idea with me, these little one or two-bite gems have seen my guests and me through many a happy hour. The concoctions you can fill them with are endless, but here are some of my standbys.

Basic Wonton Wrapper Cups

YIELD: Makes 12 cups

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

12 wonton wrappers

2 tablespoons oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat muffin tin  with nonstick cooking spray. Press a wonton wrapper gently into each muffin cup, taking care to press firmly against sides and bottom. Brush with oil. Bake 4 to 5 minutes until golden and crisp. As soon as cool enough to handle, remove from muffin tin and place on rack or cool platter. Serve with desired filling.

Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

3 to 4 large sweet Italian sausages, finely crumbled

1 frying pepper, seeded and finely chopped

12 baked wonton cups

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium skillet heat oil over medium heat; add onion, sausage and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and sausage is brown, about 7 minutes. With slotted spoon remove from skillet and set aside to keep warm or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. (If refrigerating, reheat before filling cups.) Preheat oven to 375 F. Place cups back in muffin tin or on baking sheet, fill with hot or reheated sausage mixture, sprinkle cheese on top of filling and bake just until cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Asian Shrimp Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts

1 tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage

12 baked wonton cups

12 medium cooked shrimp, tail removed

 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ cup sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine the sesame oil, peanuts, vinegar, one tablespoon of the peanut oil, soy sauce, honey and red cabbage. In another medium bowl toss together the shrimp, chili sauce, remaining tablespoon peanut oil and Sriracha sauce. Evenly divide the cabbage mixture among 12 wonton cups, top each with a shrimp and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with cocktails or wine.

Chicken Tarragon Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Chicken Tarragon Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

One boneless chicken breast, cooked and finely chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 leaves bibb lettuce, torn in half

12 baked wonton cups

12 slices cherry tomato 

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients except lettuce and tomato. Line each wonton cup with half a lettuce leaf, then divide chicken mixture evenly among cups. Top each with a tomato slice. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Artichokes

By Barbara Beltrami

If they had a beauty contest for vegetables, I think the artichoke would win. It’s such a pretty veggie, so flower-like and mysterious with its closed leaves and well-hidden heart deep in its center. Actually a member of the thistle family, it is more specifically known as a globe artichoke and unfortunately is as difficult to find as it is to prepare, but well worth the effort ultimately.

A good artichoke feels heavy, its leaves are tightly closed and squeak when you squeeze it. Because it is such a special veggie, it can be steamed and eaten with a simple lemon and butter sauce; on the other hand, because it has such an interesting construction, it lends itself beautifully to a breadcrumb, garlic and olive oil stuffing in between the leaves. Or when in Rome or not in Rome, do as the Romans do and braise it in white wine, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and season it with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Prepping and Steaming an Artichoke

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of one whole lemon

4 globe artichokes

4 slices lemon

4 garlic cloves

1 fresh bay leaf

DIRECTIONS:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and lemon juice; as you prepare the artichokes as follows, place them in the lemon water to keep them from turning brown. With a kitchen scissor, cut off the thorny tips of the outer leaves. Using a serrated knife slice about 1 inch off the tip of the artichoke. Pull off any small leaves at the base near the stem. Cut off an inch or so at the bottom of the stem, and using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin.

Alternatively all but an inch or so of the stem can be removed and peeled and cooked separately. Gently prying the leaves open, run the artichoke under cold water. Set up a pot large pot with about 3 inches water and a steamer basket. Place the lemon, garlic and bay leaf in the water and bring it to a boil; stand the artichokes in the steamer basket, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until outer leaves can be easily pulled off. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature with melted butter or hollandaise sauce.

Eating an artichoke

Pull off a leaf; gripping it between your thumb and forefinger, dip it in butter or sauce.  Bite down on leaf and scrape away tender pulp with your front teeth. Discard leaf. Continue with each leaf until you get to the tender inner leaves with the purple tips; eat only the light-colored parts. With a spoon or knife, scrape out and discard the fuzzy inedible choke that covers the heart, which is the best part of all and well worth all that preliminary work. Cut the heart into quarters and dip it into the sauce. Enjoy.

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, parsley, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. With the heel of your hand, press down on artichokes to force leaves to separate and open a little. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions and stuff each artichoke between leaves and in central cavity; drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil, place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until browned and tender. Eat as in Eating an Artichoke but be sure to scrape away and discard fuzzy choke. Serve with rustic Italian bread and a tomato and mozzarella salad.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

By Barbara Beltrami

OK, so it’s officially spring, and I’m thinking of working up a feast to fete Demeter who forced old Zeus to send Persephone back from the underworld. Frankly, I don’t know what we would do if he hadn’t struck that bargain with Pluto. Amid the fanfare of daffodil trumpets it is time to pay homage to Persephone’s return to Demeter and the regeneration of our world, to hail with delight the little sprouts that are harbingers of the greening of Mother Earth.

Long before I clean closets, wash windows or don my gardening gear, I change menus, imperceptibly at first, but soon in my pantry lumpy root veggies give way to green sproutish things like asparagus and artichokes while cabbages and beans relinquish their staple status to tender green onions and peas. Soups still simmer on my stove top, but they’re more likely to be potages of spring leeks and new potatoes than hefty minestrones. Pastas always stay, but sauces become lighter, less robust.

The minute I see the first basket of berries I swear off apples and pears; I put away the stock pot and clean up the grill and exchange the bittersweet in my vases for pussy willows.  So let the elysian games begin! Nothing but the best to honor Mother Earth. If I were to actually cook a dinner honoring the rites of spring here’s what it would be:

Carpaccio of Fresh Salmon

Spaghettini with Fresh Asparagus Puree

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Mustard Glaze

New Potatoes, Braised Leeks

Garden Salad with Spring Onion Vinaigrette

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 to 1½ pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound spaghettini

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, steam asparagus until tender and just at the point of turning a yellowish green. Cut off asparagus tips; reserve. In a food processor, puree asparagus stems, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Cook spaghettini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, transfer pureed asparagus to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until gently bubbling. Drain pasta, transfer to serving bowl and toss with puree. Scatter reserved tips on top. Serve hot or warm with a chilled dry white wine.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 heaping pint fresh strawberries

8 eggs, separated

½ cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons kirschwasser or Chambord liqueur

Butter for greasing soufflé dishes

Confectioners’ sugar

½ pint fresh raspberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Hull, wash and drain strawberries; place in bowl of food processor and puree till very smooth. Scrape puree into a large bowl, add egg yolks, half cup sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Beat and blend thoroughly.

Generously grease bottoms and sides of 1½-cup capacity soufflé dishes. Beat egg whites until stiff; beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar, then fold into strawberry mixture. Spoon equal portions of mixture into prepared dishes, place on baking sheet and bake 7 minutes. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake 7 minutes more.

Serve hot sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, garnished with fresh raspberries and accompanied by crisp vanilla wafers.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s been a new development in our kitchen. It used to be that I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen and my husband did the pots and pans. But lately I find myself doing the pots, or most of them, too. I think it’s because we recently got new cookware and, the control freak that I am, I want to keep them looking new and shiny, so I do them myself. That has led to another interesting development, though. In the interest of self-preservation, I’ve started to lean toward one-pot recipes, and of course I’ve gravitated toward the most obvious ones … those with chicken. Here are two I’ve tried that I think you’ll like too. They both go nicely with a tossed salad, but then, of course, there’s that bowl to wash.

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ tablespoon ground cumin

½ tablespoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 frying pepper, seeded and diced

Two 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, lightly drained

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 scallions, trimmed, washed and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and rub into both sides of chicken. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; brown the chicken, turning once, until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from skillet; set aside to keep warm. In same pan, stirring constantly, cook onion and peppers over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add beans, corn, and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until liquid is evaporated. Place in serving bowl and toss with vinegar, cilantro and scallions; add more salt and pepper to taste. Slice chicken and place over mixture. Serve hot or warm with green salad and rustic bread, if desired.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

Roasted Lemon Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large lemons

One 3½- to 4-pound chicken, cut up

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Squeeze the juice and scrape the pulp from one lemon. Cut the other lemon into 8 slices. In a shallow roasting or baking pan, toss together the chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion, oil, lemon juice and pulp, oregano, salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Place a lemon slice on each chicken piece. Roast, turning the veggies once or twice, until carrots and potatoes are tender and chicken is golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Serve hot with a green salad, if desired.

Photo from WMHO

BEST BAKER IN THE LAND

Congratulations to Priscilla Kirch of Hauppauge, the winner of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s first Irish Soda Bread competition. Held during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook on March 3, the contest drew eight delicious entries. Above right, Kirch receives her prize, a $150 gift certificate to the shops and restaurants at the Stony Brook Village Center from Kristin Shea, the director of the Educational & Cultural Center.  

Irish Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

‘Tis a challenge to write about St. Patrick’s Day without resorting to the clichéd corned beef and cabbage. Sure and there are other Irish dishes that can also celebrate the wearin’ o’ the green.

There’s colcannon boiled potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter and salt and pepper. Then there’s shepherd’s pie, a dish as hearty as they come, made with ground meat and veggies and topped with a mashed potato crust. I’d never made colcannon before, but after looking up a few recipes, it was easy to come up with my own version. I dug up shepherd’s pie from deep in my recipe files where I’d forgotten all about it and have happily restored it to my current repertoire. But I think my favorite is Irish cream, a whiskey blend with cream and an alcohol by volume content of 15 to 20 percent that will put green beer to shame.

Colcannon

 

Colcannon

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered

¼ pound unsalted butter

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed and thinly sliced

¼ large head cabbage, shredded

1¾ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan over medium heat boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Meanwhile in another large saucepan melt half the butter over medium heat, add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until soft; add half-and-half, stir and bring to simmer. Add potatoes, two tablespoons of the remaining butter and salt and pepper; stir and coarsely mash whole mixture. Transfer to serving bowl; melt final two tablespoons butter and drizzle over top.  Serve hot with fish, meat or poultry.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled in salted water until very tender

¼ pound unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup diced carrots

1½ pounds ground beef

½ cup vegetable or beef broth

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. While potatoes are boiling, melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Add the broth and continue to cook, covered, over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in thawed peas and season with salt and pepper. Mash potatoes with remaining butter. Spread meat and vegetable mixture in an 8×13-inch greased baking dish; spread potatoes on top to form a crust; bake until mashed potatoes turn slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot with a crisp green salad.

Irish Cream

Irish Cream

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup heavy cream

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1¾ cups Irish whiskey

½ cup coffee liqueur

¼ cup chocolate liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with hot coffee, over ice or with crispy cookies such as biscotti or wafers. Top with whipped cream if desired.

By Heidi Sutton

Teamwork was the key ingredient at this year’s Junior Iron Chef competition. The annual event, now in its 7th year, was held on March 9 at Whole Foods in Lake Grove. Hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, the one-day cooking challenge, described as “part ‘Chopped,’ part ‘Iron Chef,’ and part ‘Food Network Challenge,’” gave middle and high school students the opportunity to work in groups of three to five to complete a delicious dish of their choosing in under an hour. Fifteen teams from all over Long Island competed this year for the ultimate title of Junior Iron Chef.

“This is an amazing event,” said DJ Anthony Cafaro, from WEHM, who has served as the event’s emcee since its inception. “It’s cool to see some repeat competitors from year’s past and it’s awesome to see a lot of new competitors here,” he said.

The purpose of the event was to encourage budding chefs to learn new cooking skills and lead a healthier lifestyle while promoting the use of local food to support our local farmers and environment. Each team was required to  create a new healthy vegetarian or vegan based recipe that used local ingredients and could be easily implemented into school cafeteria menus.

“This is the seventh year I’ve done this and by far this was the greatest year with the best flavors,” said Cafaro as he tasted all the dishes.

Celebrity chefs Kayla Mitchell and William Connor helped judge the event last Saturday.

Among the 11 judges who graded the dishes based on flavor, health value, creativity and presentation was 14-year-old William Connor from Northport, a past contestant on “Chopped Junior” on the Food Network,  and 13-year-old Kayla Mitchell of Center Moriches who was a contestant on the third season of “MasterChef Junior” on Fox Broadcasting.

High school teams were given a secret ingredient at the last minute, a Sumo Citrus, to incorporate into their dish. Some chose to use the peel, others the juice. While the teams created their dishes, Cafaro kept the ever-growing crowd entertained with fun trivia and giveaways to places like the Long Island Aquarium and concerts.

While the judges deliberated, Executive Chef Jason Keubler and Anthony Cafaro visited each station, tasting each dish and giving feedback to the aspiring chefs. While Cafaro raved over everything that was put in front of him, Keubler gave positive feedback, from “These eggs are spot on,” “Flavors are very balanced,” “Great knife skills,” to pointing out the cleanliness of their workstation and asking them what their greatest obstacle was. “It’s all about teamwork and it shows in your work,” he complimented one team.

First place in the middle school division went to Team G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) from Seneca Middle School in Holbrook. Students Leah Ferraro, Sofia Iacono, Jacqueline Volo and Gianna Scolaro, guided by coach Robert Frontino, won the judges over with their creative Caribbean Breakfast Salad, which was comprised of cinnamon sugared French toast, grilled pineapple and arugula salad with goat cheese, topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

“That’s insanely good,” drooled Cafaro as he reached for a napkin. “The cinnamon and the goat cheese go so well together,” agreed Chef Jason. “The color is super vibrant, the spiciness goes with the sweetness with nice textures. Beautiful presentation,” he said adding that he was impressed by how nicely they worked together “just like in a professional kitchen.”

Second place was awarded to The 3 Breakfasteers from Suffolk County 4-H Trailblazers of Yaphank for their Vanilla Fruit Crepes filled with whipped cream and diced strawberries and garnished with blueberries. Corey Burke, Alexis Vladikin, Nora Nemickas and coach Nicole Vickovich made up the team.

The Junior Porters from Greenport Union Free School District grabbed third place for their Mediterranean Breakfast Crepe with an Herbed Whipped Cream. Coached by Katherine Ryan, Rocio Azama, DeShawn Solla, Aleyana Gungar, Ayania Smith and Brynn Dinizio were awarded for their healthy crepe stuffed with baby spinach, sundried tomatoes, black olives and low-fat feta cheese.

Team Almost Master Chef from Sachem North High School in Ronkonkoma captured first place in the high school division. Kaitlyn Seitz, Hailey McKishi, Kayla Salvate and Victoria Corcaran, under the guidance of coach Lindsey Shelhorse, impressed the judges with their Brunch For Lunch Chilaquiles dish featuring homemade tortilla shells topped with fried egg, cheese, onion and cilantro.

Second place was awarded to the Greenport High School’s Bacon Bits – Jhon Ramirez, Tommy Tsaveras, Colin Rossetti, Mateo Arias and Charles Staples – for their Gyro Style Veggie Burger on Whole Wheat Pita, which was served with sautéed onions and tzatziki sauce with a cucumber garnish. The team was coached by Marianne Ladalia.

The Salt Shakers from the Suffolk County 4-H Trailblazers garnered third place. Olivia Unger and Lexington Carrera, under the guidance of coach Adrienne Unger, were given high marks for their crispy Potato Latkes topped with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with chives and scallions.

The Mise en Place (everything in its place) awards were presented to Seneca Middle School’s Taco Bellas (Emma Bollinger, Amanda Madigan, Madeline Turano and Adrianna Sigler with coach Robert Frontino) and Almost Master Chef.

The Public Presentation awards, for the team with the best poster/informational display and judge presentation, were presented to G.O.A.T. and Bacon Bits.

“The kids today were just tremendous,” said Vito Minei, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. “This is truly a Long Island Junior Iron Chef competition with teams coming all the way from Floral Park, Franklin Square and Greenport,” he added. “I want to thank all the parents and families.You should be proud. These kids were fabulous. They all practiced teamwork and each child had an opportunity to shine.”

Brunch for Lunch Chilaquiles 

by Team Almost Top Chef, first place winners in the high school division

Ingredients

Tortilla Shell

10.5 ounces of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

7-8 ounces of hot water (110-120F)

Sauce

Diced yellow onion

Diced and seeded jalapeño

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt, to taste

Pinch of cinnamon

Can of tomato paste

2 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Filling and Topping Ingredients

Can of drained and rinsed black beans

12 oz. Fiesta Blend Cheese (365 Everyday Value Brand)

3 oz. cotija

Diced red onion

Cilantro

6 Eggs

Directions

 Instructions for sauce

  1. Sauté the diced onion and jalapenos to the pan.
  2. Crush and smash cloves of garlic and salt and add to the onion mixture.  Add the cumin and chili powder.  Add the flour, oregano, garlic powder and salt into a small bowl and place it near the stove.
  3. Add the flour/spice mixture.
  4. While whisking constantly, cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
  5. Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, then whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt, if necessary.
  7. Stir in the black beans

Instructions for tortillas

To make the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you’re using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy dough.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly, and allow them to rest, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Preheat ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8″ in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Then cut into wedges and fry them and add salt to taste.

Assembling

Fry the eggs. Layer the fried tortilla shell with spoonful of sauce and cheese.  Top with the fried egg, more cheese, dice red onion and cilantro.

Caribbean Breakfast Salad

By Team G.O.A.T., first place winners in the middle school division

Ingredients

16 oz of arugula

8 oz of goat cheese

2 boxes of raspberries (7 oz. each)

1 pineapple

1 loaf challah bread

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/4 cinnamon

4 eggs

2 tbsp honey

Directions

Challah French Toast

Preheat skillet to 350 degrees. Mix eggs in large bowl. In a separate bowl mix sugars and cinnamon. Dip the challah bread slices into egg mixture and then the sugar blend. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Arugula Salad

Mix oil, vinegar, honey and mustard and whip until blended. Strain the raspberries. Add raspberry juice to oil mixture until smooth to taste. Toss arugula, whole raspberries and cheese together with liquid dressing.

Pineapple

Cut outside skin of pineapple. Cut one inch horizontal slices. Dip in sugar mixture. Grill on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

I heard a quote the other day. Unfortunately I don’t know its source, but it’s too good not to share. It goes something like this: “There will be peace when everyone in the world has enough noodles to eat.” And it occurred to me that noodles are one of those foods that cross so many cultures around this war-torn world. Call it what you will … udon or tagliatelle or nudel or cabeza, or lokshen, the noodle is a staple of myriad ethnic cuisines. Basically composed of flour and water and sometimes eggs, noodles sustain and enhance so many diets in so many ways …when they’re available. Some food for thought.

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

Buckwheat Noodle Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons Sriracha

¼ cup peanut oil

¾ pound buckwheat noodles

½ cup freshly grated carrot

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and shredded

3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 large or 6 small radishes, thinly sliced

1 handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, ginger, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha and peanut oil. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then rinse in cold water and drain. Add to vinegar mixture and toss well. Top with carrot, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, radishes and cilantro. Serve at room temperature with grilled shrimp or chicken.

Udon Soup with Baby Spinach, Bok Choy and Tofu

Udon Soup with Baby Spinach, Bok Choy and Tofu

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 8-ounce package udon noodles

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon peanut oil

¾ pound tofu, patted dry and cut into 12 pieces

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 10-ounce package baby spinach, washed

2 heads bok choy, thinly sliced

6 scallions, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons tamari

¼ teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth

DIRECTIONS:

Cook noodles according to package directions. Place 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Season tofu with salt and pepper and cook in oil until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes; remove and set aside to keep warm. Add remaining tablespoon sesame oil, peanut oil and veggies to skillet and cook, tossing frequently, until just wilted and soft, then add the red pepper flakes, tamari, sugar and broth plus any juices from the veggies. Ladle into 4 bowls and top with tofu pieces. Serve hot with sautéed sliced beef, chicken, pork or fish.

Noodle Pudding

Noodle Pudding

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cottage cheese

5 cups cooked egg noodles

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sour cream, salt and pepper and sugar; stir in cheese and noodles. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and transfer mixture to it; sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake until thoroughly heated and top is crisp and golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a green salad.