Food & Drink

Chicken Kiev

By Barbara Beltrami

There are so many things we see on menus and order because we think they’re much too fancy to cook ourselves. And what a mistake that is because they’re most likely no more complicated or mysterious than the things we regularly cook. This is especially true with chicken breast dishes. Just because they have foreign-sounding names in italics, we are intimidated by them. The following recipes are traditional “continental” chicken dishes that have been around for ages and that are quite easy. I’ve put their fancy names in italics so you’ll feel like a celebrity chef when you make them!

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 boneless skinless thin chicken breasts, pounded to ½-inch thickness

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

3 bruised garlic cloves

3 to 4 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced thin

½ cup sweet Marsala

2/3 to 1 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS: 

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook 1½ to 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside to keep warm. Add another tablespoon each of oil and butter to skillet; saute shallot and garlic just until garlic releases its aroma, about half a minute, then remove it and discard. Add the third tablespoons of oil and butter and the mushrooms, saute over medium high heat until juices evaporate and mushrooms are tender; adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Add Marsala; simmer until reduced by half, about two minutes, then add chicken broth and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; simmer in liquid, turning once, until just warmed through, transfer to warm platter; melt final tablespoon butter in liquid; add rosemary and stir; spoon liquid over chicken and serve immediately with noodles and a green vegetable or salad.

Chicken a la Kiev

Chicken a la Kiev

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

6 skinless boneless thin chicken breast halves, pounded to ½-inch thickness

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 6 finger-shaped pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Flour for dredging

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

Oil for deep frying

DIRECTIONS: 

Place butter in middle of each chicken breast; sprinkle with salt, pepper and chives and roll up, envelope fashion; flesh should adhere without toothpicks. Dredge each roll lightly in flour and then egg, then breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Fill a skillet with 1-inch oil; heat to 360 F. Being careful of splattering, gently drop each chicken roll into sizzling oil; fry on all sides until golden brown. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and serve immediately with mashed or boiled potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 large thin skinless, boneless chicken breast halves pounded to ½-inch thickness

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup flour

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 bruised garlic cloves

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: 

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour and shake off excess. In a large skillet heat half the oil and half the butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook without moving them until bottoms are deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn them and cook until barely brown, about one minute. Remove to a clean plate. 

Add garlic and remaining two tablespoons oil and cook over medium heat until garlic starts to brown and releases its aroma; do not let it scorch; remove and discard. Add wine and capers and cook over medium heat, swirling liquid and scraping browned bits from bottom of pan until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add half a cup of water and remaining butter and swirl again over medium-high heat until liquid forms an emulsion, about 1 minute.

Return chicken to skillet and simmer in sauce until cooked through and sauce is thick enough to coat spoon; transfer chicken to warm platter. Stir lemon juice into sauce, pour over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve hot with rice and a green vegetable.

It’s a Marty Party!

Marty

Marty, the tall, googly-eyed robot that roams Stop & Shop stores searching for spills and potential hazards is turning 1. To celebrate, select Stop & Shop stores on Long Island will throw Marty a 1st birthday party on Saturday, January 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. complete with birthday cake, crafts for kids and giveaways.

Marty the robot is used to identify hazards and spills on the floor, allowing associates to focus on customers. When the robot detects a potential hazard on the floor, he notifies store associates who take corrective action.

Some fun facts about Marty on his first birthday:

  • Marty is from Kentucky and was created by Badger Technologies
  • Marty speaks both English and Spanish
  • On average, Marty spots 40 spills and potential hazards at each store every day
  • Marty has more than 300 cousins who also live at Stop & Shop stores across the company’s five state footprint
  • Marty’s favorite dance move is the robot (naturally)

Participating locations in our neck of the woods are:

57-01 Sunrise Highway, Holbrook

700-60 Patchogue Yaphank, Medford

2350 North Ocean Avenue, Farmingville

1100 Jericho Turnpike, Huntington

365 Rt 109, West Babylon

294 Middle Country Road, Coram

351 Merrick Road, Amityville

400 Union Blvd, West Islip

421 Commack Road, Deer Park

291 West Main Street, Smithtown

1730 Veterans Memorial Highway, Islandia

425 Portion Road, Lake Ronkonkoma

260 Pond Path, South Setauket

2650 Sunrise Highway, East Islip

More information about Marty can be found at: https://martyatstopandshop.com/ 

 

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

If ever there was a veggie suited to winter cooking, it’s got to be the leek, which is like an onion but better because it’s sweeter and more colorful. And it doesn’t make me “cry” as much as an onion does when I’m cutting it up. The French love to use leeks in their cooking, and perhaps their best dish that uses them is their potato leek soup, potage aux poireaux, a savory and comforting bowl of creamy white or pale green goodness. Then there’s a hearty milk-poached fish dish with leeks and mashed potatoes or an unusual salad of leeks marinated in a vinaigrette and served up with walnuts and goat cheese that are just a few of my favorites. The one drawback for leeks is that they have to be carefully washed as there is often field dirt in between their leaves. However, it’s a small price to pay for such a wonderful veggie.

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts chicken stock

8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

4 leeks, white part only, washed and sliced

1 fennel bulb, outer leaves removed, thinly sliced

1 cup half-and-half (optional)

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup snipped chives, for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot, combine the chicken stock, potatoes, leeks and fennel; boil until everything is very tender and soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then puree in small batches until smooth, using immersion or regular blender or processor. Return to pot, stir in cream, if using, and parsley, add salt and pepper as needed and simmer until soup is thickened, about 20 minutes. Garnish with chives. Serve hot or warm with a hearty salad.

Marinated Leeks with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

6 large leeks, roots, , tough outer leaves and  2 inches of tops of leaves removed

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove , minced

¼ cup white wine vinegar

2½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup finely chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Slice leeks into half-inch disks; in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook them until very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place in bowl of ice water to stop cooking, drain and pat dry. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together oil, garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. In a salad bowl, toss vinaigrette with leeks and walnuts; sprinkle with goat cheese and parsley.  Serve at room temperature with crusty bread and meat, poultry or fish.

Milk-Poached Fish with Leeks and Potatoes

Milk-Poached Fish with Leeks and Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into quarters

½ cup olive oil

2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and halved lengthwise

4 sprigs thyme

2 garlic cloves, bruised

3 cups milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Four 6-ounce fish fillets such as cod, Chilean sea bass, monkfish, etc.

¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot, boil potatoes in salted water until very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, but reserve half a cup of cooking water. Coarsely mash potatoes, add ¼ cup cooking water (more if needed) and half the olive oil to potatoes and set aside to keep warm. In a medium wide saucepan, combine leeks, thyme, garlic, milk, salt and pepper. Over medium heat bring to a simmer and cook until leeks are a little tender, about 8 minutes. Gently slide fish fillets into pan with milk and leeks; poach in liquid until fish is cooked through and flakes when tested with a fork, about 8 minutes; adjust to a simmer as needed. Divide potatoes, leeks and fish among four shallow bowls; garnish with parsley, drizzle with remaining olive oil before serving.

Photo by Maryann Zakshevsky

Surprise your Valentine with a romantic dinner at an elegant mansion where luminaries from the 1920s and ’30s dined with members of one of America’s most famous and powerful families. 

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport hosts its annual Valentine Dinner at Eagle’s Nest, the historic waterfront estate of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II, one of the most glamorous and romantic settings on Long Island.

The estate and its beautiful, early 20th-century Spanish Revival mansion are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate is the home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

 This popular event offers limited seatings of 50 at 6 and 8 p.m.

The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer in the Memorial Wing of the mansion. After a brief tour of the living quarters, dinner will be served in the Northport Porch. Dessert and coffee will follow in the Lancaster Room and Moroccan Court, adjacent to the Vanderbilt Library. 

Choice of entrees include prime rib, chicken with Madeira sauce, stuffed sole with spinach and feta in a tomato dill sauce and heart-shaped cheese ravioli with vodka sauce.

The evening is a rare opportunity to enjoy an intimate dining experience with a spouse, partner or special friend and to celebrate in Gold Coast style. Seating at this exclusive event is very limited and sells out quickly. Tickets are $150 per person, $135 members. Reservations are online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Proceeds from this special evening will benefit STEAM education programs. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

By Barbara Beltrami

Recently faced with a 2½-pound bag of spinach, I was reminded of a visit with my friend at her wine estate in Tuscany where after cooking with her, I came away with a whole new attitude about and repertoire for spinach. In the ways she prepared it, it was a far cry from the plain old green stuff boiled or microwaved or taken out of a can. In fact, the things she did with it were such treats that second helpings were de rigueur. Consider these adaptations of her recipes, which move spinach to a sublime and savory taste echelon.

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2½ ounces unsalted butter

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, drained and squeezed dry

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 ounces golden raisins, soaked in warm water 10 minutes and drained

2 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted

DIRECTIONS: 

In large skillet, melt butter, add spinach and salt and pepper and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes. Stir in raisins and pine nuts and cook over medium low heat a few more minutes. Serve with meat, poultry or fish.

Pasta with Spinach, Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta such as penne, rigatoni or ziti

1 pound fresh or frozen spinach, cooked, drained, squeezed dry and chopped, liquid reserved

½ pound Gorgonzola cheese, diced

2 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 ounce grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Boil one cup of reserved spinach liquid (if not enough, add pasta cooking liquid). Meanwhile put the cheeses and pepper into a heat-proof pasta bowl; mash them together with a fork until they are well blended. While it is still hot, put cooked pasta in bowl with cheeses; add spinach and toss vigorously to combine; if sauce is too thick add a little of the spinach liquid and toss again. Serve immediately with a chilled dry white wine. 

Little Spinach and Gruyere Soufflés

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce unsalted butter plus extra for greasing individual soufflé dishes

1 ounce flour

1 cup boiling milk

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, cooked, squeezed dry and finely chopped

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

4 large eggs, separated

7 ounces Gruyere cheese, diced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Dried breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. In small saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour, then slowly add hot milk; stirring constantly, cook mixture for 5 minutes; add spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg; stir and let cool. With wire whisk, stir in egg yolks, Gruyere and Parmesan. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into mixture. Grease individual soufflé molds and dust with breadcrumbs. Place equal amounts of mixture into each soufflé dish; bake 20 minutes; serve immediately with thin breadsticks

Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 ounces unsalted butter

2 pounds cooked fresh spinach, drained, squeezed dry and finely chopped

1 pound ricotta

5 ounces sifted flour

5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Grated nutmeg to taste

1 ounce melted unsalted butter

4 sage leaves, minced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

In large skillet, melt the two ounces of butter; add prepared spinach and, stirring frequently, cook 5 minutes. Put spinach in a large bowl; add ricotta, flour, 5 ounces Parmesan, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, egg, salt and pepper and nutmeg; mix to thoroughly combine; refrigerate for one hour. Remove mixture from fridge and roll into little balls (about 1- to 1½-inch in diameter). Carefully drop balls into pot of gently boiling salted water and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Preheat broiler. With skimmer remove balls, drain well and place in a greased ovenproof dish. Dot with melted butter and sage, sprinkle with remaining two tablespoons of grated Parmesan and place under hot broiler a few minutes to lightly brown. Serve hot with a mixed salad.

 

Apple Latkes

By Barbara Beltrami

Latkes, aka potato pancakes, are such a Hanukkah tradition that I cannot imagine that holiday without them. Usually made of grated potatoes and fried to commemorate the oil that miraculously burned for eight days when the Macabees purified and rededicated the Second Temple in Jerusalem, they are one of the several fried foods for the holiday. However, there’s nothing that says you can’t make them with veggies, apples or sweet potatoes. You may run into protests from the kids who love the originals, but maybe you can sneak in a few new versions from the following recipes.

Original Potato Latkes

Original Potato Latkes

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups grated and drained potatoes

¼ cup grated onion

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons matzo meal or flour

½ cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, potatoes, onion, salt and pepper and matzo meal or flour. In a large skillet heat half the oil over medium-high heat and drop the mixture into it by tablespoonfuls; flatten with back of cooking spoon. Fry, turning once and adding more oil as necessary, until golden brown on both sides; drain on paper towels and set aside to keep warm. Serve hot or warm with sour cream or applesauce.

Apple Latkes

Apple Latkes

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon baking powder

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and drained

1 large apple, peeled, cored and shredded

1 small onion, minced

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

In small bowl sift together flour, salt and pepper and baking powder. In large mixing bowl thoroughly combine flour mixture, potatoes, apple, onion and eggs. Heat half the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter by large spoonfuls into hot oil; flatten with back of cooking spoon; fry, turning once and adding more oil as necessary, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels; set aside to keep warm. Serve hot or warm with applesauce, apple butter, sour cream or honey.

Central and Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Veggie Latkes

YIELD: Makes 6 pancakes.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups shredded cabbage

2 large baking potatoes, peeled, shredded and drained

2 large carrots, peeled and shredded

3 medium leeks (white and light green parts only), washed and finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted with flour

3 eggs, beaten

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

½ cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine cabbage, potatoes, carrots, leeks, mushrooms, flour and baking powder, eggs, salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop the mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into the hot oil; flatten them with back of cooking spoon. Fry, turning once and adding more oil as needed, until golden brown; drain on paper towels and set aside to keep warm. Serve hot or warm with sour cream

Mediterranean (Sephardic) Veggie Latkes

Mediterranean Veggie Latkes

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled finely diced eggplant

1 large frying pepper, finely diced

1 medium zucchini, finely diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 small onion, minced

2 large russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and drained

¾ cup flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs, beaten

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1½ teaspoons fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ cup vegetable or olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine eggplant, frying pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, potatoes, flour and baking powder, eggs, garlic, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop the mixture by heaping spoonfuls into hot oil; flatten them with back of cooking spoon. Fry, turning once and adding more oil as necessary, until golden brown on both sides; drain on paper towels; set aside to keep warm. Serve hot or warm with plain yogurt, basil pesto or tomato sauce.

 

Candy Cane Cookies

By Barbara Beltrami

There are certain traditions whose pleasure is as much in the anticipation and process as in the outcome. And I think that baking Christmas cookies is one. I’m not saying that those delicious confections aren’t fun to eat, that they aren’t downright addictive. I’m just saying that it’s the expectation, the clearing of the kitchen counter, the line up of all the ingredients and decorations and the assembly- line camaraderie of family and friends all pitching in to mix and press, bake and decorate and even clean up the beautiful mess that is the real fun. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Then it’s surveying the heaping platters, dividing and arranging them into assorted pyramids or decorative containers that caps the whole experience. Of course, we all have our traditions, the one Christmas cookie that people expect from our kitchen (mine is my ginger people), and then there are those that are digressions from tradition — little crunchy, crumbly surprises that are likely to become new traditions. Here are a few.

Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies

YIELD: Makes 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

1¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ cup crushed candy canes

¼ cup sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In large bowl combine, the ¾ cup sugar, butter, egg and extracts; beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth and creamy. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; add butter mixture and beat on low speed until well blended; stir in half the candy canes. Stir remaining candy canes into the ¼ cup of sugar. Shape dough into ¾-inch balls; roll them in sugar and candy cane mixture, then place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until edges are lightly browned; do not over bake. Let cool one minute on baking sheet, then remove to rack to cool completely. Serve with peppermint tea or hot chocolate.

Teddy Bear Cookies

Teddy Bear Cookies

YIELD: Makes 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

½ pound cream cheese at room temperature

1¼ cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

About 50 gummy bears

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth; beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt, then gradually beat into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about one hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into 1½-inch balls, roll in confectioners’ sugar and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until edges are set and tops are cracked, about 13 to 14 minutes. Immediately press a gummy bear into top of each cookie. Cool five minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling

Orange Chocolate Truffles

Orange Chocolate Truffles

YIELD: Makes about 1½ dozen

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup heavy cream

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1 cup good quality cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan bring the cream to just a simmer over medium-low to low heat, transfer to medium bowl; pour cream over chocolate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until chocolate melts, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and orange zest until thoroughly blended; set aside to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes. When you are sure there is no heat left in mixture, beat it on medium speed of electric mixer until it turns a light color; refrigerate about one hour. Using a melon baller, scoop into balls and roll smooth with hands. Place cocoa powder in shallow dish and roll balls in it until covered on all sides. Gently remove each one to a waxed paper or parchment-lined baking sheet; refrigerate until ready to serve, then let sit at room temperature. 

 

Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

With just over 275 wineries within seven grape-growing areas, Virginia ranks fifth in the nation for wine grape production.

The first recorded wine production in the United States took place in Virginia soon after the British established a colony there in 1607. However, it wasn’t until 1807, when Thomas Jefferson planted grapes of European descent on his Monticello estate that the industry began. Sadly, Jefferson’s experiment failed because of rot and phylloxera (small root insects).

For a while Virginia was the most important grape-growing state, but Prohibition annihilated the flourishing industry and only in the beginning of the 1970s did local producers make wine again.

At a private tasting/seminar there were over 20 wines to taste and evaluate. Overall, the wines very good with a few excellent ones. Space prevents me from providing tasting notes on all the wines. Here are some highlights:

2017 Barboursville Vineyards Vermentino Reserve: Aroma and flavor of apples, pear, citrus and hazelnuts. Tastes likes it’s from Liguria, Italy.

2010 Barboursville Vineyards Octagon: A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot; dark colored with a powerful, concentrated flavor of blackberry, black currants and cedar; hints of vanilla and smoke.

2017 Linden Vineyards Boisseau Viognier: Light-bodied with a full bouquet of melon, lime, lychee and bitter orange.

2017 Glen Manor Vineyards Petit Manseng: The perfume of orange abounds along with melon, tropical fruit, nutmeg and citrus.

2018 Williamsburg Winery Petit Manseng: Tropical notes of papaya, pineapple and mango with an aftertaste of cinnamon and peaches.

2017 Veritas Vineyard Cabernet Franc Reserve: Enormous wine with black fruit, blueberry, bittersweet chocolate and smoky oak.

2016 Michael Shaps Wineworks Tannat: Flavor of blackberry, black raspberry, cherry, espresso and brown spices. A huge wine that will age another decade.

2016 King Family Vineyards Mountain Plains: A blend of merlot, cabernet franc and, petit verdot; full flavor of dark berries, fig, prunes, blueberry and toasted almonds.

2015 Boxwood Estate Winery Reserve: A blend of cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot; closed nose but rich flavors of blackberry, black tea, licorice, spicy vanilla and hazelnuts.

2012 Paradise Spring Vineyards PVT (blend of petit verdot, tannat): I enjoy the flavor of petit verdot and tannat but have never tasted them blended together. Almost black-colored and tannic with flavors of black cherry, blueberry, mint, plums and sage. Worth searching out!

2017 Early Mountain Vineyards Eluvium: A blend of merlot, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon; elegant, perfumed, dark fruit, plums, jam, anise and smoky oak.

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

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s that frenzied time of year when the imminent holidays take huge chunks out of not just our wallets but our time. For many of us, preparing complicated and time-consuming meals is out of the question, and it’s either takeout or something quick but hearty that can be shoved in the oven while we scramble around to attack the holiday chores. This is when casseroles can be the answer. They’re meals that the kids enjoy and can even pitch in to help prepare (if you can pry them away from their iPhones and video games). Casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated. Here are a few that are my favorites.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup flour

1 quart 2% milk, heated but not boiled

8 ounces Emmenthal (Swiss) cheese, grated

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces fontina cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ pounds cooked lobster meat

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for macaroni. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt all but two tablespoons butter over medium heat; reduce heat to low and, stirring constantly with wire whisk add flour, cook for two minutes, until nicely blended and a pale golden color. Still whisking, add hot milk and cook a minute or two more, until mixture is smooth and thickened; remove from heat and whisk in the cheeses, salt and pepper and parsley until well blended and smooth. Stir in cooked macaroni and lobster; transfer to greased large casserole dish or individual ramekins. Melt remaining two tablespoons butter and combine with breadcrumbs; sprinkle over mac and cheese mixture. 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup uncooked wild rice or wild rice and long-grain rice blend

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

¼ cup flour

1½ cups chicken broth

1½ cups half-and-half

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

3 cups diced cooked chicken

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook rice according to package directions; set aside. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt half the butter, then cook the shallot until opaque but not brown, about a minute or two; sprinkle in flour and whisk until just blended; add broth and half-and-half and over medium heat, vigorously whisk; when smooth, simmer about 5 minutes, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. In medium skillet over medium heat, saute mushrooms in remaining butter; add, along with chicken and rice, to butter-flour mixture; thoroughly combine and turn into 2-quart greased casserole. Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly and barely crispy on top and garnish with parsley.  

Bean and Corn Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green frying pepper, diced

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon chili powder

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

One 28-ounce can + one 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can corn kernels, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add onion, garlic and frying pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and chili powder and stir until blended. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and over medium heat, bring to a boil; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in beans, corn, salt and pepper, thyme and parsley, and transfer to greased two-quart casserole. Bake until bubbly, about 40 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

The Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station needs help. 

Over the last three months, the food pantry has seen a 33 percent increase in demand for groceries. 

The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization has been feeding the hungry of Huntington Township since 1972 and expects to provide over 40,000 meals this year. 

They need more volunteers, to pick up bread from Stop & Shop once a week on Tuesday and to work at the pantry. Typically, volunteers help for about two hours at least one day a month.  

If you and your club or organization want to help restock the shelves, the council is in particular need of chicken soup, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, sauce, toilet paper, etc. 

Religious organizations in the area, as well as a couple of food markets and restaurants, provide food or support to the pantry. The group is a member of Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, which both also provide food to  for the hungry. The council is looking for additional support. 

The pantry is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to give out food and receive donations.

For more information contact Jackie or Steven at 631-351-1060 or email the council at volunteer@comfoodcouncil.org or visit www.comfoodcouncil.org.