Food & Drink

Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Last week’s column was devoted to tummy warmers and so is this week’s. What kind of a food columnist would I be if I didn’t devote at least one winter column and maybe more to hearty winter soups? Especially in this weather!

Ah, soup, glorious soup. Anyone who’s ever shivered, had numb toes and fingers and chattering teeth knows how wonderful a mug or bowl of hot soup is. There are so many to choose from, and I love them all. That’s because not only are they comforting, nourishing and savory but also because they’re one pot meals full of nutrition and appetite satisfaction.

Moreover, they just keep giving and giving if you make big vats of them and then divide them into containers for freezing. And they are oh so easy! You pretty much just throw the ingredients into a pot, cover it and simmer till done. And here’s an idea you might like. How about using one of the thicker soups as a pasta sauce? You can puree it or leave it chunky and reduce the liquid. Whatever kind of soup you make, be sure to serve it with lots of crusty bread, a mixed salad and a light red wine such as Beaujolais.

Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cups water or chicken broth

One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS: Steam the squash and carrots until very tender. In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat; add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. When slightly cooled, being careful of spattering oil, add water or chicken broth, steamed squash and carrots, ginger, salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through, about 15 minutes; remove from heat; let cool to lukewarm. In 2 or 3 batches, puree in food processor or with immersion blender until smooth. Reheat, stirring frequently, and add more liquid if too thick; sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately with stir-fried veggies and brown rice or refrigerate for later use.

Escarole and Bean Soup

Escarole and Bean Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

6 cups water or chicken broth

1 head escarole, washed and chopped

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt to taste, if using water

1/4 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot, heat oil, add onion and over medium-high heat, cook until slightly golden; remove from heat. When slightly cooled, being careful of spattering oil, add water or chicken broth, escarole, beans, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir, return to heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until escarole is completely wilted, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately with crusty bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil or refrigerate for later use.

Mushroom and Barley Soup

Mushroom and Barley Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


6 cups beef broth or stock

2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 celery ribs, thinly sliced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 pound thinly sliced white or baby portobello mushrooms

1/3 cup barley

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot, combine all ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, until veggies and barley are tender. Note: For an even heartier soup, if desired, add approximately 1 to 2 cups small chunks of cooked beef at the beginning.

Chicken Pot Pie

By Barbara Beltrami

The holidays are history. All those sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and cookies have worked their way to postholiday residence in my body, but in these temperatures I cannot bear to even think of my annual New Year’s resolution, to subsist on rabbit food and rice cakes to reverse the damage. Baby, it’s cold outside and New Year’s resolutions be damned!

Surely my body is smarter than I am, even has a mind of its own and is telling me that it craves no-nonsense tummy warmers … simmering soups, stews and bubbling casseroles. I don’t need much convincing. Before I know it I’m standing in the kitchen chopping and stirring. By the time it is dusk and I turn on the lamps, savory aromas waft through the house.

It’s starting to snow again or maybe it’s still snowing. I sip a glass of wine and remember why I insist that I like winter when the snowbirds challenge my decision to stay here rather than move to Florida.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


2 whole chicken breasts, bone in

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (for chicken breasts)

¼ cup olive oil

5 cups chicken broth

½ stick unsalted butter

1 medium-large onion, diced

2 tablespoons flour

¼ cup heavy cream

More salt and pepper, to taste (for sauce)

Two 10-ounce packages frozen peas and carrots, cooked according to package directions

Nonstick cooking spray

Four 8-inch pie crusts

2 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Place chicken breasts skin side up in baking pan; rub with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until skin is golden and meat is cooked through. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and discard. Pull meat away from bone and dice. Set aside.

In small saucepan heat chicken broth. In medium saucepan, melt butter and cook onions over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, about two minutes. Add the hot broth and, with wire whisk, stir vigorously over low heat until thickened. Whisk in cream, salt and pepper; stir in peas and carrots and chicken.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray four individual ovenproof bowls with nonstick cooking spray. Divide chicken mixture evenly among bowls. Top each bowl with rolled out pie crust; crimp edges and make a few slits in top. Brush crusts with milk, place bowls on baking sheet, then bake one hour, until crusts are golden and insides are bubbling.

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/3 cup flour

Salt and pepper, to taste

2½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium onions, cut into wedges

1 cup dry red wine

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

10 cups beef broth or stock

1½ pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS: Combine the flour, salt and pepper; dredge the beef cubes in the mixture. In large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil, then cook the meat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned. Remove and set aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot, add the onions and cook over medium heat, until pale gold. Pour wine in pot and over medium heat with spatula scrape and loosen any bits from bottom of pot. Add garlic, tomato paste, beef and broth to pot; stir and bring to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer one and a half hours, until beef is tender. Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, parsley and bay leaf and simmer one more hour, until vegetables are tender. If necessary, add water or more broth during cooking. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

By Barbara Beltrami

Doesn’t polenta, simply a mixture of corn meal and liquid, sound so much better than corn mush or grits? Actually, they’re all the same thing. While the mush or grits may be just as delicious, their names still suggest a bowl of well, glop; polenta, on the other hand, sounds as if it could be an operatic aria, an Italian race car or expensive designer label. At the very least, it suggests interesting savory continental fare.

A staple in northern Italy, polenta is to that region what pasta is to southern Italy and it’s just as simple to cook. You basically combine water, broth or milk with a five-to-one ratio of liquid to cornmeal, stir it and let it absorb enough water to make it tender, and then serve it up with pretty much anything you would serve with pasta, potatoes or rice. It is particularly good with any dish that has lots of sauce or gravy that it can soak up.

Some people like polenta loose and creamy like porridge or mashed potatoes for a hearty accompaniment or main dish; others like it drier and firmer so it can be sliced, then grilled, toasted or baked. The firmer one makes a terrific base for anything from breakfast to canapés. Have leftovers? Even if originally creamy and loose, polenta will become firm when refrigerated. To make it creamy again, just add some liquid when you reheat it.

Basic Polenta

Basic Polenta

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


5 cups water, milk or chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup medium cornmeal

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Pour the liquid into a large sturdy saucepan over high heat; whisk in cornmeal. Stirring frequently with a long wooden spoon, bring mixture to a boil. Continue cooking and frequently stirring until it begins to pop or spit; reduce heat to low and stir and scrape bottom of pan to keep it from sticking or scorching. When it is thickened and starts to pull away from pan, about 45 minutes, it is done. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in olive oil or butter. Serve immediately with sauce, gravy or grated cheese or transfer to bowl or container, cover and chill until set. When ready to serve, cut into pieces; toast or grill; then add any canapé topping or spread you desire.

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


3 cups milk

2 cups water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄₃ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1⁄₃ cup shredded fontina cheese

1⁄₃ cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: Prepare basic polenta (above) according to instructions but use 3 cups milk and 2 cups water. When polenta is done, remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheeses while it is hot enough to melt them. Serve immediately with pot roast, stew, chili, tomato sauce or on its own with a crunchy green salad.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms


YIELD: Makes 6 servings


1 recipe for basic polenta, chilled and cut into 2-inch by 2-inch squares, toasted or grilled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

12 ounces fresh baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Melt butter with olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and parsley and cook until onion is opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms. garlic, wine, and sage and cook, stirring a few times, over medium low heat until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, stir, and remove from heat. Spoon over toasted polenta squares and serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Stock photo

Suffolk County shoppers, get your nickels ready.

In an effort to encourage residents to shop with reusable bags instead of plastic and paper “carryout” bags that harm the environment, the Suffolk County Legislature is rolling out a 5 cent fee on all disposable bags at a variety of retail establishments, from supermarkets to department stores beginning Jan. 1.

The new law, which was officially passed by the Legislature in September 2016, applies only to the single-use plastic or paper bags provided by cashiers at the end of a sale and used to carry goods from the store. There won’t be a fee, however, on bags found in produce sections for fruits and vegetables, frozen foods or on bags by pharmacies to carry prescription drugs, according to the law.

Cashiers are required to add the total fees to a customer’s receipt based on how many bags are used. Residents can avoid the fee by either buying a reusable bag — ones made of cloth or canvas, which are available in many retail stores — or shopping with a bag from home.

“Hopefully people will say ‘I’m not paying 5 cents’ and go with the other options,” said Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), who wrote the legislation to reduce the influx of plastic bag waste that gets trapped in trees, blocks storm drains and causes significant damage to water supplies and wildlife. “We’re hoping to change behaviors. While we won’t change everyone’s, this will change a lot of people’s and that can make a big difference. I think once people start to not use the plastic bags, they’re not going to really miss them.”

Spencer’s bill began in March 2016 as a ban on all single-use plastic bags, piggybacking off an initiative adopted by the Town of Southampton, but it didn’t receive enough support. This revised bill was co-sponsored and pushed by five legislators, including Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), and 140 out of 150 residents who weighed in on the initiative during a public hearing testimony.

As of Jan. 1, shoppers will be paying for paper and plastic bags at most retail stores, encouraging others to use reusable bags. Stock photo

The legislators also worked alongside a Suffolk County plastic bag working group, which consists of local scientists, educators, environmentalists, business people and government employees.

“We have to curtail the use of plastic bags,” Krupski said. “They’re everywhere. I would encourage people not to pay the fee. It’s all just a matter of changing your habits and keeping a shopping bag in your vehicle to have it at the ready. It’ll take time for people to get used to that, but like anything else, people will get used to it.”

A 5 cent fee on plastic and paper bags was adopted in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and the accumulated nickels have contributed a total $10 million to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund, as of 2015.

As mandated by New York State, however, the fees collected in this bill will be retained by the stores. Not being able to apply the collection to an environmental cause convinced a Democratic legislator not to support the law.

“That 5 cent charge should go back into the environment,” said Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who voted “No.” “Instead, the fees are going back into the pockets of the stores. The legislation needed work.”

Anker also said she received outcry from constituents over the concept of fees.

“A lot of the community, especially the senior population, did not want to pay extra for the plastic bags,” she said. “But I will say, plastic is a really harsh environmental pollutant.”

Spencer said he plans to revisit the legislation after a year to evaluate the financial impact it’s having and ask the state to allow funds to be used for environmental purposes.

“It would be great to do that, but only the state has that ability,” Spencer said. “The state may make that decision.”

Jay Peltz, general counsel and vice president of government relations at Food Industry Alliance, which represents 800 state supermarket chains, convenience stores and wholesalers, including Stop & Shop and King Kullen, which will be charging the fees, said it’s a current law where everybody wins.

“It will help the environment and it will help the stores,” he said. “It’s a thoughtful, productive law and is the only way to both reduce plastic bag distribution while incentivizing people to increase their use of reusable bags.”

He added that the fees may be used to help pay for higher minimum wages expected to be put in place in the coming year, but store owners are still weighing the options.

Survey: Shoppers still prefer plastic
By Desirée Keegan

A local survey conducted shows that just 5 percent of shoppers bring reusable bags.

The finding, coming ahead of a 2018 Suffolk County law banning the free use of plastic and paper bags at a vast majority of retail stores, was concluded after students from Northport, Brentwood, Huntington, Smithtown, East Islip and North Babylon, with member of St. Joseph’s College, surveyed 11,395 shoppers in November and December, in front of grocery stores, convenience stores and a pharmacies.

New Suffolk County environmental law prohibits plastic and paper bags in favor of eco-friendly reusable ones. Stock photo

The polling, organized by a county-created task force to help educate the public about the bill, found 71 percent of individuals use plastic bags, while the balance use paper, a combination, or no bag.

The survey will be repeated next year to analyze the effect of the law on consumer behavior, according to
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. She said she hopes between 60 and 70 percent of residents are bringing reusable bags by next year.

“Reducing litter, marine pollution and saving our oceans are worth changing our habits,” Esposito said.

While plastic bags drew the ire of environmentalists and lawmakers, the law also requires stores to charge for paper bags, as well as thicker “reusable” plastic bags, to prevent stores from circumventing the law, Spencer said.

County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), the bill’s primary sponsor, said county residents should contact his office at 631-854-4500 for a reusable bag, especially if you cannot afford one.

“If you need a reusable bag, come see me,” Spencer said, adding he bought 1,000 reusable bags to give away.

Sparkling wines can be red, white or rosé (pink) and dry, off-dry, semisweet or even sweet.

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

The expression, “All that bubbles is not champagne,” might be overplayed, but it is true. Sparkling wines are made throughout the world in virtually every country that makes wine, and most countries have a local name for their “bubbly.” However, the term “champagne” is properly given to the sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wines made in the U.S. must provide a geographic term such as New York, American, or California before the word “Champagne.”

A sparkling wine is an effervescent wine (contains bubbles) resulting from the secondary fermentation of wine within a closed container (bottle or tank). Sparkling wines are made globally from a multitude of different grapes and grape blends. Sparkling wines can be red, white or rosé (pink) and dry, off-dry, semisweet or even sweet. Prices also range from inexpensive to very expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars per bottle.

Some recently tasted sparkling wines that should satisfy anyone’s taste are:

Codorníu Cuvée Clásico “Cava Brut,” Spain (blend of macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo grapes): Fine pin-point bubbles with a bouquet of green apples, lemon and brioche. Dry, clean and crispy in the mouth with a pleasing aftertaste of almonds. Fabulous with fried calamari.

Codorníu Anna Blanc de Blancs, Brut Reserva, Spain (blend of chardonnay, parellada, xarel-lo and macabeo grapes): Delicately flavored, elegant and beautifully balanced with a nice creamy mouthfeel and a lively, fruity-spicy aftertaste. Raw oysters with a hint of mignonette sauce pairs well.

2016 Montesel Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, DOCG, Brut, Italy: A top-of-the-line dry prosecco, which has a fruity bouquet of apples, citrus and fennel. Flavors of ginger, stone fruit and anise round out this beauty. Did anyone say dark chocolate with some fresh raspberries!

Philippe Deval Brut Crémant de Loire, AOC Loire Valley, France (blend of chenin blanc and chardonnay grapes): A flowery aroma of apple cider, citrus, nuts and peaches. Dry and lemony with ripe melon flavors and almond aftertaste. Serve with a fruit-based sauce over pork.

Cococciola Brut Spumante, Abruzzo, Italy: Cococciola is a white grape variety grown in the Abruzzo (some in Apulia) region since the early 1900s and used mostly for blending. This is the first sparkling wine I have seen from the grape variety and it is amazing! Pale straw colored with a perfumed aroma of apricots, honeysuckle, lychee and wild flowers. Flavors of citrus and orange, with hints of sage and toasted almonds. The aftertaste begs for another glass (or bottle)! Pair this with some panettone, light fruit tarts or a bowl of strawberries with whipped cream.

By the way … the first recorded production of a bottle-fermented sparkling wine occurred as early as 1531 at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire at Limoux in southern France, more than a century before Dom Pérignon arrived at Hautvillers.

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

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

By Barbara Beltrami

Phew! Here it is Christmas Eve. Shopping done, presents wrapped, cookies baked, cards addressed and mailed (or not). And tomorrow is Christmas morning. Let’s see. OK, checklist: The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and they have to get eaten; we’ve made sure the chimney is clear for Santa; better peek in and be sure the kids are finally asleep and dreaming of sugar plums, then put presents under the tree; and finally make strata for Christmas breakfast and put it in the refrigerator.

Strata? What’s that? It’s a wonderful eggy casserole-type dish with bread and whatever else you want to add — ham, cheese, bacon, sausage, cheese, onion, mushroom, spinach, broccoli, tomato, green pepper, fruit — whatever you’d put in an omelet or frittata or anything that strikes your fancy. It’s assembled ahead of time so the bread can soak up all the eggy liquid, then refrigerated and the next morning popped into the oven to bake while you sit and watch the kids open their presents.

Tip: It tastes best if you eat it while you’re in your pajamas.

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.


1 tablespoon butter

1 pound ready-to-eat crescent rolls, torn into chunks

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 pound crispy bacon, crumbled

1 pound fresh spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced thin

¾ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter. Place half the crescent roll pieces evenly on bottom. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Pour half the egg mixture over the crescent pieces. Let sit about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Evenly distribute bacon, spinach, mushrooms and Gruyere in separate layers over soaked crescents. Top with remaining crescent pieces, then pour remaining liquid over them. Press down to ensure that all pieces are immersed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove plastic wrap. Bake strata for 45 minutes to one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with hot coffee, tea or cocoa and a fruit salad.

Strata with Sausage, Eggs and Cheddar Cheese

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


12 one-inch-thick slices of rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup cooked crumbled sausage meat

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: Combine the bread, sausage and cheese and pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half and mustard; pour over bread mixture and press bread down to be sure all cubes are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F, remove plastic wrap and place strata in oven. Bake for one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve hot or warm.

Strata with Pears, Raisins and Pecans

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.


One 1-pound loaf cinnamon raisin bread, cubed

1½ cups diced, pared and cored pears

1 cup raisins

²⁄₃ cup coarsely chopped pecans

10 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

4 tablespoons melted butter

1⁄₃ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Combine bread, pears, raisins and pecans; pour into a 9- by 13-inch greased baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour over bread mixture and press top to make sure all bread pieces are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 325 F. Remove plastic wrap; bake strata 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is golden. Serve hot or warm with bacon, or sausage, maple syrup and hot coffee, tea or cocoa.

Zucchini and Carrot Latkes

By Barbara Beltrami

You don’t have to be Jewish to love latkes — those crispy pancakes or fritters made most often from grated potatoes and fried in oil to symbolize the cleansing and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Syrians some 21 centuries ago. The Maccabees had only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but miraculously it lasted for eight days.

Aside from this tradition, here’s the thing you must remember about latkes: They must be thin and crisp. In order to achieve that you must first coarsely grate the potatoes and any other vegetables in the recipe, then squeeze those grated veggies as dry as possible and discard the liquid that accumulates. You can add a little flour or matzo meal to the mixture, but that’s optional. A thin coating of oil in the skillet is sufficient for frying them.

While potatoes are by far the most traditional and popular ingredient, nowadays other vegetables such as sweet potatoes and zucchini have made their way into the customary Hanukkah fare. Follow the preparation procedure faithfully and create your own latkes. And you’d better make a lot, because they go fast before they even make it to the table!

Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

YIELD: Makes 2 dozen pancakes


2 pounds potatoes, peeled and placed in cold water

1 medium onion

1 large egg, beaten

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Using a hand grater or food processor, coarsely grate the potatoes and onion. Place in a fine mesh strainer or clean tea towel and hold over a bowl while you squeeze out all the liquid. (The potato starch will settle to the bottom of the bowl; reserve that after you have very carefully poured off all the water.) In a large bowl mix the potato and onion with the starch; add the egg, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly to combine.

Place a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat, pour in a thin film of vegetable oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Scoop about two tablespoons of the potato mixture with your hand or a large cooking spoon, flatten as much as possible, then drop gently onto griddle or into skillet. (Be careful as oil may spatter.) Flatten again with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Continue until griddle is filled but pancakes are not touching each other. Fry until golden, flip and fry the other side. Remove and place on a thick layer of paper towels, then press more paper towels on top of the pancakes to soak up excess oil. Serve immediately or reheat in a 350 F oven. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Zucchini-Carrot Latkes

Zucchini and Carrot Latkes

YIELD: Makes 2 dozen pancakes


2 pounds zucchini, coarsely grated ½ pound potatoes, coarsely grated

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, coarsely grated

²⁄₃ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

²⁄₃ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1⁄₃ cup flour

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Drain, press and squeeze the grated vegetables to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in a medium bowl and add the cheese, parsley, flour, eggs, salt and pepper and garlic and mix thoroughly. In a large skillet, heat about ¼-inch of oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Using a large cooking spoon or your hands, scoop mixture and shape into patties; drop gently into hot oil and press with back of spoon to flatten. Over medium-high heat, fry, turning once, until both sides are crispy and golden brown. Drain on several layers of paper towels and press more paper towels on top. Serve with tomato sauce or sour cream.

Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes

Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes

YIELD: Makes 16 pancakes


1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and grated

1 apple, peeled, cored and grated

½ cup flour

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 2 large eggs, beaten

Approximately ½ cup milk

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Coarsely grate the sweet potatoes and apple over a medium bowl. Drain, press and squeeze to eliminate as much moisture as possible. In another medium bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the eggs and milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until the batter is stiff and moist but not runny. Add potatoes and apple and mix. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a skillet just to the point of barely smoking. Gently drop the batter in two-tablespoon measures and flatten with the back of the spoon. Fry, turning once, until both sides are golden, about 3 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and pat tops with more paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce, maple syrup, honey or cranberry sauce.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

By Barbara Beltrami

What ever happened to the hors d’oeuvres that used to be a staple at every cocktail party? Thank goodness, pigs in a blanket, regarded by professional caterers as the consistently most popular hors d’oeuvre at any party, have survived the hors d’oeuvres revolution.

But what about sweet and sour meatballs? Scallops wrapped in bacon? They’ve been usurped and driven out of town by the ubiquitous smoked salmon and caviar or fig and goat cheese canapés, bruschette and crostini, spring rolls and sun-dried tomatoes, quiches and crudites, lamb lollipops and wonton wrapped and phyllo-filled delicacies that practically come with pedigrees.

I’m as guilty as the next person in serving and scarfing down these precious concoctions. But if I put them on a tray next to their popular predecessors, guess which would be gobbled up first. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people who still serve any of those once so popular and delicious dinner precursors, good for you! And please invite me to your next party because frankly, I’m getting tired of their replacements. And while you’re at it, don’t forget the sour cream and onion dip.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 16 servings

INGREDIENTS: 2 pounds ground beef

½ cup bread crumbs

1 onion, minced

Half a green bell pepper, minced

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ cups jellied cranberry sauce

12 ounces ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl combine the beef, bread crumbs, onion, green bell pepper, egg, salt and pepper and parsley; mix thoroughly. Roll mixture into balls about the size of a walnut and place in a large baking dish. Bake in 375 F oven for 25 minutes or until brown on top; turn meatballs and bake another 10 to 15 minutes to brown other side.

Meanwhile in a large pot combine the cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and hot red pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly; taste to adjust flavor and add more sugar, soy sauce or vinegar, if desired. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium low flame. Keep at a simmer. When meatballs are cooked, remove them from oven and gently add them along with any juice or fat in the pan to the sauce. Stir and continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve hot with pineapple chunks, rice, toasted Italian or French bread slices, sweet pickles or cheese cubes.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes 24 pieces



½ cup teriyaki sauce

¹⁄₃ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, crushed

12 large sea scallops, rinsed, patted dry and halved horizontally

12 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise

DIRECTIONS: Soak toothpicks in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, ginger root, lemon juice and garlic. Carefully wrap bacon around perimeter of each scallop half; secure with toothpick. Remove crushed garlic from teriyaki mixture; brush each bacon-wrapped scallop with teriyaki mixture and place in foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown on top side; turn and bake another 4 to 5 minutes until second side is golden brown. Serve hot with wasabi mayonnaise.

Wasabi Mayonnaise: Whisk together one cup good-quality mayonnaise, one tablespoon soy sauce, two teaspoons sugar, two teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, one or two teaspoons wasabi paste (depending on how hot you like it). Serve in small bowl.

Moss Ball

Moss Ball

YIELD: Makes a one-pound ball


8 ounces cream cheese

½ pound blue, Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

¼ pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Place all cheeses in mixer bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add onion and Worcestershire sauce and beat well. Roll into ball, wrap and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. In small bowl, mix the nuts, parsley and black pepper. Spread on sheets of wax paper or on a large baking sheet. Roll cheese ball in nut and parsley mixture until well coated and nuts and parsley are all used up; press any straggling pieces into the ball. Cover again and chill until firm, about 2 hours. Serves with crackers.

Cranberry Chutney

By Barbara Beltrami

Once Thanksgiving is over and the turkey is just a carcass in a soup pot, and the fixings are just unidentifiable messes in plastic containers, there is still a whole month and beyond in which to take advantage of fresh cranberries, those little ruby-red gems that are in seasonal abundance. Rich in vitamin C, cranberries are not just a life-support system for a sauce. They make a fabulous pie, a delicious chutney and a moist and dense tea loaf — all perfect for holiday entertaining. And …. the tea loaf is an excellent gift from your kitchen as well.

No time to cook now? Buy them anyway and freeze them for the next occasion when you need something special. (They can be frozen for up to a year.) When you scavenge around and find them in the frosty recesses of your freezer right behind the turkey soup that was rejected in favor of a pizza, you’ll be happy to have stashed such a treasure.

Cranberry Walnut Pie

Cranberry Walnut Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie

3 cups cranberries, halved

½ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup raisins

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Dash salt

Half a stick of unsalted butter, cut into six pieces

DIRECTIONS: Line a 9-inch pie dish with one pastry crust. In a medium bowl mix together the cranberries, walnuts raisins, sugar, flour and salt and turn into pastry-lined dish and dot evenly with butter. Cut remaining pastry crust into ¾-inch-wide strips and make a lattice across the top of the cranberry mixture. Bake at 425 F for 40 to 50 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or rum raisin ice cream or whipped cream.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

YIELD: Makes 4 to 5 cups


½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

3 cups fresh whole cranberries

3 fresh pears, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup drained canned pineapple chunks

1 cup dried figs, chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

½ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon peeled chopped fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon prepared grainy mustard

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

2 cinnamon sticks

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS: In a large saucepan, heat vinegar and sugar to boiling point. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes; add cranberries, pears, pineapple, figs, onion, orange juice, ginger, mustard, orange rind, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Continue to simmer half an hour, until cranberries burst their skins and mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve warm or at room temperature with pork, ham, fowl, game or any soft cheese.

Cranberry-Citrus Tea Loaf

YIELD: Makes one 9- × 5- × 3-inch loaf


2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, well beaten

½ cup grapefruit or orange juice

2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or sunflower oil

¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

½ cup chopped fresh pecans

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon orange extract

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9- × 5- × 3-inch loaf pan. Sift together the dry ingredients, then add the egg, juice, oil and liqueur. Stir to combine. Add cranberries, nuts, zest and extracts; mix thoroughly but do not overmix. Spread batter evenly in prepared loaf pan. Bake 50 minutes to one hour, until cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool 15 to 20 minutes; remove from pan when ready to serve. Serve with hot tea, coffee or chocolate with butter, orange sorbet, butter pecan or vanilla ice cr

The word 'fondue' comes from the French word 'fonder,' meaning 'to melt.'

By Bob Lipinski

“Cheese complements a good meal and supplements a bad one.” — E. Briffault, French gastronome

Bob Lipinski

As the weather turns colder and days become shorter, thoughts of sitting around a roaring fire come to mind. Although freshly roasted chestnuts and large mugs of mulled wine or even hot chocolate satisfy, I enjoy dipping some crusty bread into a pot of melted cheese. Not just any cheese, but one that is flavored with kirsch (cherry brandy), garlic, white wine and seasonings. I’m talking fondue, a true Swiss tradition.

The word “fondue” comes from the French word “fondre,” meaning “to melt.” There are several kinds of fondue including the traditional cheese one and a meat fondue known as fondue bourguignonne from Burgundy, France, where cubes of raw beef are threaded on skewers, then dipped in bubbling hot oil for several minutes prior to being eaten with various dipping sauces.

Then there is a dessert fondue featuring chocolate, cream and liqueurs heated until melted, then used to coat pieces of cake or fruit.

When selecting wines to pair with fondue, choose fairly neutral dry white wines with good acidity, while avoiding oaky ones. My recommended white wines include a Swiss Fendant (Chasselas grape) or Neuchâtel; French Chablis or Muscadet; Grüner Veltliner, sauvignon blanc or dry Riesling. Choose red wines with little tannin and oak in favor of wines like Beaujolais, grenache, grignolino, and pinot noir.

The following fondue recipe is a modification of the original I enjoyed while in Switzerland. Although the recipe calls for the traditional Emmental or Gruyère cheese, you can also try Appenzeller, Beaufort or Comté and any combination of these cheeses.

Cheese Fondue

The word ‘fondue’ comes from the French word ‘fonder,’ meaning ‘to melt.’


3 cloves garlic, pressed

1 pound Emmental or Gruyère cheese, grated (not chopped)

1 teaspoon butter

½ cup dry white wine (see above recommendations)

¹/3 cup kirsch (cherry brandy, NOT “flavored” brandy)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Nutmeg for dusting

Salt and white pepper to taste

¹⁄₈ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

DIRECTIONS: In an earthenware pot, rub the sides and bottom with garlic (add to pot), then add cheese, butter, white wine, kirsch (in which the cornstarch has been dissolved) and nutmeg. Place the pot over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon. If the cheese forms into a thick mass, continue to stir and it will be re-absorbed. As the mixture continues to bubble, adjust flavor with salt and pepper, then add the bicarbonate of soda, which will make the fondue lighter. Now the fondue is ready to enjoy. Take cubes of crusty French or Italian bread; fasten onto foot-long, three-pronged, metal fondue forks and dip into the fondue for a moment or so before popping it into your mouth. Now enjoy a glass of some good Swiss wine!

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